Effective listening includes listening to yourself
Listening is different from hearing. Hearing occurs when sound waves collide with your auditory system. Listening takes place when you make up your mind about what those sounds mean to you.
What you make up are interpretations or assessments about whatever you have heard, observed, smelled, tasted, or touched. These interpretations are language actions. You interpret the sound you just heard as the barking of a dog.
But effective listening is about more than listening to what you heard or observed and creating assessments. It includes paying deliberate attention to that continuous silent conversation that goes on within you.
Listening and Beliefs
That conversation contains your long held assessments or beliefs about the way things are or the way things ought to be, about what constitutes right or wrong behavior or about what should or should not happen.
These beliefs operate in the background of your life and influence your levels of success and happiness. They dictate what you pay attention to and what you ignore, what you feel comfortable with and what you fear, and what actions you take or don’t take.
What you hear and observe gets filtered through these long held beliefs. If what you see or hear clashes with your deep seated beliefs, you automatically interpret the person or the situation as a threat to something you value and either prepare to challenge it or to move away from it.
If you fail to pay attention to this inner conversation, it silently runs your life without your being aware of it.
For example, if you have a long held believe that all dogs are dangerous; you automatically start moving away from the sound you just heard and interpreted as a dog barking. The assessment you hold about dogs has set you up in such a way that you hurry to the other side of the street when an approaching dog barks at you.
But if you believe that most dogs are friendly and anxious to play, you automatically move toward the dog and interpret its bark as an invitation to play.
It’s not the dog bark that threatens or attracts you. It’s the belief you hold about dogs that determines how you feel and how you behave.
If you wish to participate differently in life, change your beliefs about all dogs. The same holds true for your relationships.
Effective Listening for Relationships
Becoming aware of your silent conversation is a critical skill if you want to build and maintain important relationships at home, among friends, or in the workplace with co-workers.
You need others to help you take care of what is important to you if you wish to be successful in any part of your life.
You may believe that the reason why you do not have better relationships is because of the behavior or attitude of your spouse, children, friends, or co-workers, but that interpretation simply gets you off the hook and makes them the problem.
More often than not, your listening is the problem. You interpret some of their behaviors as threats to what you care about, so you frown, criticize, argue, make snide remarks, or look disinterested.
They do likewise. They interpret your smirks and snide remarks as criticism or threats to what they care about and evidence you are not interested in understanding the reasons behind their position or their actions.
Effective listening happens when you become aware of your beliefs about people and their behavior and do not let those beliefs dictate how you interact with them.
Instead you focus on discovering what is important to them, and use effective communication skills to co-ordinate your actions with theirs so that the relationship remains strong and both of you reach your goals.