Friday, January 1, 2010


“Why won’t he even listen to me?” “Why am I cut off before finishing the whole story?” How many times have we been frustrated by someone not listening to what we have to say? How many times have we frustrated others by not listening to them? With all attention that most of us pay to self –expression, the art of following what others are saying has largely been neglected. Many times we jump in to say what’s on our minds before we’ve even acknowledged what the other person has said, short circuiting the possibility of mutual understanding.

Listening is the art of connecting with another person so you fully understand what they are saying and feeling. It is an indispensable skill needed in creating and maintaining a marriage, in parenting children effectively, and in working together.

We tend to think that listening is the same as hearing; but listening really is more than that. Listening with ears is incomplete unless it is joined with eyes and heart. Many people only pretend to be listening. They may smile while you talk to them. They may nod their heads. They may appear to be intent, but they are either thinking about something else, or are so intent on appearing to be listening that they do not hear what you are saying. Often their minds wander as they tune in and out of the conversation.

Some people never allow the other to finish. They may be afraid that they will forget something important they want to say. Or they may feel that it is necessary to respond to a point as soon as it is made. Or they may simply be more concerned with their own thoughts and feelings than with those of others.

Families are created, maintained, and/or destroyed through effective communication. Most important thing is our need to listen to each other--with the heart as well as the ears. Empathic listening is the greatest gift parents can give to their children. It is the ability to put themselves in their child's place and understand what the child thinks, without imposing their point of view. Emphatic listening is the cementing factor in the relationships of husbands and wives also. Showing sincere interest in each others’ problems, ideas, thoughts, and opinions builds real love and understanding. Only after understanding the other person can you agree or disagree, and then work cooperatively to clarify thinking, seek solutions, and resolve conflict.

Speaking without listening and hearing without understanding are the two major characteristics of bitter families. If they disagree they begin to shout louder and louder - if not actually, at least inwardly - hanging fiercely and deafly onto their own ideas, instead of listening and becoming quieter and more comprehending. But understanding ears give the other person a chance to "get it off his chest," to "clear the air," or "let off a little steam."

Listening is probably the single most important thing you can do for someone who is grieving. This means active listening, or listening to understand and feel what another person is feeling. Active listening involves eye contact, feeling the grieving person's feelings, and, in some instances, naming these feelings.

Someone said eloquently-

My words come from my life's experiences
Your understanding comes from yours.
Because of this, what I say,
And what you hear, may not be the same.
So if you will listen carefully,
Not only with your ears,
But with your eyes and with your heart,
Maybe somehow we can communicate.

In the course of becoming a better listener, the first thing you'll realize is that it's important to listen not only to what's being said, but also to what's not said. Remember that effective listening can reveal many hidden truths. If you listen with your eyes, your ears and your mind, you will always get the information you need. And you must pay attention to the non-verbal clues of physical gestures, facial expressions, tone of voice, and body posture. An authority on nonverbal language says that 55 percent of the message meaning is nonverbal, 38 percent is indicated by tone of voice, and only 7 percent is conveyed by the words used in a spoken message. Few people know how to listen to the eyes; what a tapping foot means; a furrowed brow; clenched fist; the biting of nails. These often reveal the key feelings behind the words.

It is important to realize that failure to listen is not necessarily a product of meanness or insensitivity. Anxiety, preoccupation and other pressures can make all of us poor listeners at times. But the damage is still the same. So learn to listen. Relax, smile, look at the speaker and help that person feel free to talk. Look and act interested. Remove distractions: turn off the TV; stop what you are doing, and pay attention. That takes time and concentration. Listen to your wife, your husband, your father, your mother, your children, your friends; to those who love you and those who don't, to those who bore you, to your enemies. It will work miracles in all your relationships


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