“The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place”
- George Bernard Shaw
This quote made me smile. When we talk with each other there are so many factors that influence what we hear. First, the person has to be paying attention. We assume that if we are talking and the other person is capable of hearing, then they are listening. However, they may be thinking about what they are going to do about lunch or what just happened with someone else before you began talking. Then, when we listen, we tend to try to figure out what the person is saying and are already filling in the blanks. It’s just human nature and how our brains work.
To truly listen, we need to slow down and take in what is being said. That means not leaping to conclusions, interpreting what is being said, or interrupting. Listening with the intent of understanding can take practice. Next time you are in a situation where you are required to listen try this exercise: listen to what is being said like you are a recorder. Your goal is to remember everything the person is saying as if you had to repeat it all back.
When they are done, reflect in your mind what they said and ask yourself if you really heard and understood. Summarize what you heard and ask the other person if you got it right. It’s actually amazing at the amount of information we miss because what we are usually doing is trying to think about our response to what the person said first, and we end up missing the majority of what was said after the first sentence.