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90% of People Are Poor Listeners. Are You the Remaining 10%?

90% of People Are Poor Listeners. Are You the Remaining 10%?

So, if we show you two photos, one of Miley Cyrus and the other of Justin Bieber, two celebrities who are remarkably and androgynously alike, you would be able to tell who is who and make a correct identification, right? Now if only life was so easy that it let you spot the good egg, from the bad one – be it as a partner, a friend or even the choice of a job or a house.

Basically, life offers us many challenges and while it’s relatively easy to pass judgment on others, we very often err while self-introspecting. Most of us don’t consider listening as big an art as talking and because of this, a lot of us would call ourselves good listeners. But is that really true? Are we good listeners at all?

Identifying Good Listening vs. Bad Listening

So, do you think that you are a good listener? Well then, let’s check these identifying mannerisms of good listening vs. bad listening and check where we all can stand to improve…

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Hidden Meaning vs. Literal Meaning

A lot of communication lies in the tone and emotional cues, as well as the body language of the talker – and not just the words. To be an effective listener, you need to take in the literal meaning of course, but also read in between the lines. Listen for the tone, for the emotion in the voice, and look for the non-verbal cues as well. Empathize with the talker, find common points and ask questions if you need answers.[1]

Understanding vs. Gaining Information

We may often listen to get answers to a question. But effective listening goes hand in hand with understanding, and not just with the intent of gaining information. Many times, when we ask pointed questions, we skim-listen to the reply but don’t really understand the situation and stop listening after we think we have got the answer. You may look as if you are attentive and getting in every word but frankly your mind is wandering and you’re not really in the situation at all…[2]

Asking for Clarifications vs. Making Assumptions

Good listening means that you ask questions when you have a doubt, and not make any assumptions about the issues. Don’t let your thoughts or doubts come into the picture, and don’t let any of that color the current conversation. Clarify, once, twice or thrice even if you have to, to make sure all your doubts are cleared by the correct person and not just by your presumptions.[3]

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Listening to Digest vs. Listening to Respond

So many times it happens that we listen to something, only to be able to respond to it. Rather, while the other person is still talking – we stop listening and begin to formulate our reply – and often miss so much of what we were supposed to listen to, process and understand. Stephen R Covey right said, “Most people listen with the intent to respond, not with the intent to understand.” If your mind is moving ahead to the response and not listening, well, you lose out.[4]

Letting the Speaker Finish vs. Interrupting the Speaker

We may not always agree with what is being said, and may even have valid counterpoints – but all of us need to have the manners and the patience to let the talker finish first. Interrupting the talker, speaking out of turn and just generally being ill-mannered will make you miss out on listening and understanding the point being made as well as disturb the rest of the audience’s listening. Let the speaker finish, and then politely intercede to make your point.[5]

Boldly Agree To Disagree vs. Bow Down To Authority

Conversely, not speaking up when you strongly feel different will also go against effective listening. Listening to it not just hearing – it’s about hearing, then understanding and processing the thing you have heard, and finally forming an opinion about it. If you have patiently listened to and understood all that was being said and have a very strong point or interjection to make – you must speak up. Bowing down to authority at this point will make you harbor a lingering resentment towards yourself, yet again making you miss the rest of the talk or conversation since your emotions come into play. Once the speaker has finished, stand up and make your point boldly – you many agree to disagree at the end but at least you have said your piece.[6]

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Consistently Listen to One Topic Vs. Getting Bored Too Easily

As much as it is good for a speaker to be able to talk about one topic consistently and interestingly, it is even better for a listener to be able to listen about the same topic with full concentration. Only if you listen to what is being said with full concentration will you be able to glean the gist of it all.[7]

Listening With an Open Mind vs. Listening With Too Firm a Belief

To listen and listen well, you have to have an open mind to what is being said, even if it is going against your core beliefs. Like we mentioned above, you can choose to hear out the speaker patiently and then speak up or counter-argue the point you cannot digest – but at least listen with an open mind. You might end up learning something new after all.[8]

Listening With Fair Balance & Empathy vs. Listening Judgmentally

We very often tend to view the world with colored glasses – often shaded in hues of our beliefs, prejudices, and resentments. When we are listening to someone, we should listen not only with an open mind but also an open heart and keep our judgments and belief system aside. Do not start taking what is being said as an affront or insult – the person who is talking has a right to his own beliefs. Listen fairly, let the person finish and then if you want, you can choose to make your own point – without trash talking the speaker in turn.[9]

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Show Interest in the Speaker vs. Appear Bored & Tired of the Speaker

The person addressing the audience – be they experienced talkers or newbies – has a certain set of trepidation and wants to make sure that the audience is interested in what they have to say. If you appear bored, listless and distracted while they are talking – you are not only reducing their morale but also curbing their speaking enthusiasm and affecting your own listening skills as well. Be active, be alert and be interested in what they are saying to get the best out of them and your listening skills as well.[10]

Paying Attention to Key Meaning vs. Missing the Meaning of It All

Many people hear everything sometimes, but miss the meaning of it all but not paying attention to the key points, being too busy analyzing every little thing, formulating their own replies, getting blinded by the speaker’s charm, making notes etc… There will be times the speaker will verbally or physical emphasize a few things – pay attention to the meaning behind it all instead of focusing on the decoration…[11]

Making Sure the Understanding is Correct vs. Letting Confusion Mar the Listening

Finally, as we have been stressing – the difference between hearing and listening lies in the understanding of things. Make sure you have grasped everything that is being said, raise your hand and ask pointed questions if need be and only then move on to the next point. Hearing everything and understanding only a little means your listening wasn’t up to the mark at all.[12]

So pay attention to what is being said and concentrate on the meaning of the words instead of just hearing them – switch off those phones and keep micro-conversations at bay. Hear and understand for effective listening…

Reference

[1] TCB Devito: Communication Strategies
[2] Huffington Post: Are You Listening Or Just Reloading
[3] Facebook: Positivity Vibrations
[4] Business2Community: How to Truly Listen to Someone, Instead of Listening to Respond
[5] Info Please: Speaking & Listening Skills
[6] Forbes: 10 Ways To Brave Up & Speak Up
[7] Stack Exchange: How To Avoid Mind Drifting While Listening
[8] Boundless: Be An Open Minded Listener
[9] Lolly Daskal: The Heart of Listening
[10] Magnolia Etiquette: Show Respect to the Speaker
[11] Boundless: Components of a Speech
[12] Key Differences: Differences Between Hearing & Listening

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Last Updated on August 19, 2019

How to Succeed in Life on Your Own Terms: 7 Essential Steps

How to Succeed in Life on Your Own Terms: 7 Essential Steps

There is a great deal of advice in the world telling us how to succeed in life, but often we are given advice that isn’t tailored to our needs, desires and priorities. Success means different things to each of us, and living a life that feels genuinely successful to me might be very different to your idea of a successful life.

Naturally, when we follow the advice of someone else, which is tailored to their life goals and personality, we can end up with something that doesn’t deliver on the promise. We don’t get rewarded with our vision of success: we get theirs.

This is why I’m a proponent of self-discovery, introspection and personal sovereignty. So how to succeed on your own terms?

These 7 essential steps are not going to tell you exactly what to do, but they will provide you with the tools and the questions to ask so that you can discover your own path, so you know how to succeed in life on your own terms.

1. Know Thyself

One of Socrates’ most well-known quotes is,

An unexamined life is not worth living.

I argue that an unexamined life is not a successful one. Self-knowledge is something we could dedicate our lives to, but I’m not suggesting you sit around and navel-gaze in order to find happiness and meaning.

Thankfully, there are people who have created techniques and systems that less us fast-forward through a lot of personal philosophizing, and quickly identify some key aspects of what makes us, us.

You might want to find out what your ideal daily schedule is,[1] and you can take tests that reveal just that. Or you might want to figure out what you need to get things done – and yes, there’s a quiz for that too.

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None of these tests are infallible, and some are more scientific than others, but the process of asking yourself questions about your behaviors and traits is invaluable when it comes to determining your path to succeed in life.

For example, if you know you are an introvert and are unhappy in your current workplace, it might be worth considering why that is (an open plan office space perhaps) and what you would prefer.

It’s these little questions that will provoke answers in you that can guide the decisions that truly improve your life now and in the future.

2. Figure out What Matters to You

What lights you up? This is a question that often gets forgotten as we age. A fortunate child will be given the stimulation they desire in the form of bright toys, affection and entertainment. Little by little, the things that bring a child joy get replaced by what society demands on their behalf.

When we return to that question, and ask ourselves what really matters and what brings us joy, we can move closer towards a successful life. It can help to think back to your childhood, and the times in your life when you were in what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls a flow state.[2]

In a state of flow, time slows and our focus is directed like a laser. We are fully present.

Whilst not everything in life that matters to you will conjure up a flow state, it’s a good indication of the kind of activities and experiences you can try to incorporate into your life on a regular basis.

A successful life is made up of moments like this, and when you know what matters to you and brings you a sense of joy and purpose, you can go about creating more of that.

3. Play to Your Strengths

Why spend your time only on mitigating your weaknesses, only to feel average? Instead, playing to your strengths and amplifying those skills and qualities you already have will help you go from average to extraordinary.

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If you’re great at big picture thinking and love dreaming up new ideas, but often lack attention to detail, acknowledge that. Then instead of trying to improve your analytical skills, focus instead on developing your existing skills of imagination and insight. When you need someone with a keen eye for detail, you can collaborate with those people.

Jackson Pollock was an extreme introvert, with no real desire to get his artwork in front of people. Fortunately, he had Clement Greenberg, who was much further towards the extrovert end of the spectrum, to popularize his work and get Pollock the publicity he needed.[3]

Start by identifying your strengths and what comes naturally to you. Then work on developing those and becoming known for those strengths. You can always find someone who will help you in fill in the gaps.

4. Listen to Yourself

It isn’t always clear to us that we’re on a path that leads us to failure or to success. People can spends decades in a job that is unfulfilling and slowly breaking their spirit, without even realizing it – until it’s too late. This is usually because they haven’t learned how to truly listen to themselves.

The challenge we face is that we’re listening to so many other sources of information; whether it’s the news, television, social media, family, friends or colleagues. Many may want to help, but that doesn’t mean they know what’s best for us. Only you know what success means for you, and working this out begins with listening to yourself.

Listening to yourself requires practice. It’s a daily effort, which over time, does get easier. That inner voice of wisdom will get clearer, and the decisions you make will feel more convincing.

To start, you could try to set aside 10 to 15 minutes when you first wake up, in silence. Rather than look at your phone, checking emails or social media, simply sit in silence, listening.

Ask yourself a simple question like, what am I feeling right now, in this moment? Notice the answer that bubbles up, without getting lost in the story. Starting an inner dialogue, without judgment is one of the key tools you can use to start making better decisions in your life.

Learn more about listening to your true self in this guide: How to Listen to Your Inner Voice for Greater Fulfillment

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5. Listen to Others (But Not Everyone)

Listening to yourself is one thing, but listening to others is crucial in order to learn, empathize and be of benefit to your community.

Truly listening to others is not just waiting patiently until it’s your turn to speak. Active listening requires focused attention, and the intention to understand where the other person is coming from.

When you do this, you can ask better questions and discover more about the world and everyone in it, as well as learn how to interact with others in order to succeed in life on your own terms.

However, this doesn’t mean you have to listen to everyone you come across. Trolls on the internet may come into the category of people not to listen to. Some people’s opinions will do more harm than good, as not everyone has your best interest in mind.

It’s worth identifying a shortlist of people whose opinions you will listen to. Brené Brown, author of the New York Times best-seller Daring Greatly, recommends taking a 1-inch x 1-inch square of paper and make a list of people whose opinions matter to you. These are the people who love you and will genuinely support and help you. According to Brown,

“If you need more paper, you need to edit.”

6. Make Time for Reflection

It’s easy to go through life without taking inventory of what you’re actually accomplishing. Missing this crucial step means we end up jumping from one goal to the next, without feeling like we’re getting anywhere.

Make time, ideally each day to reflect. You might keep a paper journal, or an online document. Either way, jot down:

  • What went well today
  • Something you’re grateful for
  • What would make tomorrow even better

Doing this can have measurable benefits to our overall sense of well-being, as well as keeping us focused for more success in the future.[4]

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It also helps combat feelings of lack and doubt, that arise when we compare ourselves to others. When we look at someone who appears to be more successful than us in an area of life, we can forget how far we’ve come and how much we have to be grateful for.

Making time to reflect on what you have accomplished is critical to keep you on track, and just not looking at what others are doing.

7. Don’t Be Afraid to Change Your Mind

Arguably the most important step of all:

Remember that there’s nothing wrong in changing your mind and correcting course.

The path to a successful life is not straight and narrow. It meanders and there’s no harm in going back and picking a different (and better) route.

“I think our life is a journey, and we make mistakes, and it’s how we learn from those mistakes and rebound from those mistakes that sets us on the path that we’re meant to be on.” — Jay Ellis

Be willing to make mistakes, learn from them and change your mind. Ultimately, there’s no better way to succeed in life on your own terms.

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Featured photo credit: Shirly Niv Marton via unsplash.com

Reference

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