Monday, February 22, 2016

Turning Your Listening On

A subscriber to “Theatre Arts” dialed directory assistance for the magazine's number. The operator said, “Sorry, sir, but there's no one listed by the name ‘Theodore Arts.’” 

The man said, "No, it's not a person; it's a publication. I want the listing for Theatre Arts." 

"I told you, we do not have a listing for Theodore Arts," came the disinterested voice.

The man said in a loud voice: "The word is 'THEATRE. T - H - E - A - T - R - E.' I need the listing for Theatre Arts." 

"Sir,” said the operator, “that is NOT how you spell Theodore."

Patricia Goldman, as vice chairperson of the National Transportation Safety Board, used to tell a story about how poorly airline passengers listen. She says that one flight attendant, who was frustrated by passenger inattentiveness during her what-to-do-in-an-emergency talk, changed the wording. This is what she actually said:

“When the mask drops down in front of you, place it over your navel and continue to breathe normally.”

Not a single passenger noticed.

We have eyelids, but we do not have ear-lids. To compensate, we learn to listen selectively – to turn our listening on and off. And though we are well-practiced at turning listening off, we may not be as good at turning it back on. What would happen if we turned our listening on full strength?

If you have ever been listened to, really listened to, you know how powerful that experience is. Listening is best when it is done with your whole self. This is what I mean: 

  • Listen with your eyes. Make eye contact with the speaker. And forget about multi-tasking. Research shows that it is impossible to truly listen to another person while doing something else at the same time.
  • Listen with your ears. It is impossible to listen when you are speaking. Learn to concentrate on the moment at hand and clear your mind of distractions.
  • Listen with your mind. Let go of preconceived ideas about what you think the speaker is saying. Keep your mind open, even if you suspect you will dislike what you are about to hear.
  • Listen with your heart. Be concerned for and genuinely interested in the person to whom you are listening. That will speak louder than anything you actually say.

Dr. Karl Menninger stated, “Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward.” Listening with your eyes, your ears, your mind and your heart not only works, it can create an almost magical bond between you and others.  

It may be good to speak in such a way that others love to listen to you, but it’s better to listen in such a way that others love to speak to you.

-- Steve Goodier