We are all required to listen to survive and listen to thrive. We stay alive because we listen for danger. Our careers and businesses thrive because we listen to our client’s requests and needs. Listening is not a skill that we have been taught. It was assumed that we would develop this immensely important skill automatically.
If you want to move to the status of expert in the skill of listening, you will need to control your thinking process. If you are thinking about what someone is saying while they are speaking, you are not fully listening. You could be thinking about whether you agree or whether they are telling the truth or whether it will rain tomorrow. To listen fully you need to stop thinking and let the message wash over you. Do you ever find yourself labeling experiences? You may be looking at a beautiful cloud formation and suddenly your thinking tells you that you can see a horse’s head. In that moment you have stopped the awesome part of the experience by labeling it.
In the same way, if you think about what someone is saying, you have stopped listening fully.
The next time someone speaks to you, try to resist the urge to think. Just let the message, the words, the tone, the emotion wash over you. You will understand what is being said more fully and will not be tempted to interrupt the flow. You will also enjoy your experiences and conversations more if you label less and leave your eyes and ears wide open.