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Listening Loudly

December 20, 2018

Listening Loudly

The art of effective listening is essential to clear communication, and clear communication is necessary to management success.

—James Cash Penney

In today’s culture, listening has become a lost art form. For the most part, people have very little patience for sitting still and listening to what the other person is actually saying. The art and manners of listening go much deeper than simply listening to words. Proper listening means disconnecting from everything or everyone that is not involved in the current conversation, putting the technology down, looking each other in the eyes, and sincerely trying to understand the root of what the other person is saying. I use the word “root” as a way to signify that, sometimes, people don’t always verbalize what they are trying to get across. The person you are talking to may decide to go down multiple paths of discussion, never hitting on the main premise or the intended purpose of what they are trying to communicate in the first place. In cases like these, we have our work cut out for us.

In this chapter, we’ll explore several critical aspects of effective listening.

Put the technology down

I am not a big believer that technology and conversation should go hand-in-hand. When individuals are engaged in dialogue, technology should never become a part of the interaction. Under no circumstances should people read texts or e-mails while engaged in conversation. It is just plain rude. It sends a terrible message that what the other person is discussing is just not important. What is even more fascinating to me is that the person reading the texts or e-mails will often apologize and then continue reading them anyway. I am always embarrassed for the other person. It may be a generational thing, but there are a lot of people like me who are offended when technology is being utilized during a two-way conversation. Then again, maybe it’s only one-way; I can’t tell.

At a minimum, the technology user should establish an upfront contract with the other person and ask permission to use the device(s) before the conversation begins. At least, both of the conversational participants (or not) have agreed to the rules of the game.

Look people in the eyes

There is no better way to show your enthusiasm and interest in what others are saying than to look at them directly in the eyes. Good conversational intelligence and listening starts with eye contact. Having your shoulders back and head up, looking directly into the eyes of the other person is the proper way to engage in conversation. No, it doesn’t have to be a staring contest as you may want to bounce your eyes and look away from time to time as the conversation progresses, but the idea is to maintain eye contact. It always sends a signal to others that you are interested and listening loudly.

Have you ever been in a conversation in which the other participant never engages in eye contact? It leaves one feeling a little uneasy and always wondering what the other person is hiding.

Having an enjoyable two-way conversation

A third aspect of listening loudly relates to engaging in an enjoyable two-way conversation. Think about a time when you were on the receiving end of a conversation that lasted for hours that seemed like days because you hardly participated at all. You didn’t participate because you weren’t allowed to. This type of conversation leaves one frustrated. Yes, there may be times when you are counseling others while sitting quietly and listening is the right way to go. But on the whole, both parties should participate equally. Be mindful that good listening is caring about what other people have to say and is not a platform to make yourself feel good with nonstop chatter. 

Affirm and reaffirm

As the conversation unfolds, there should always be intervals in which you are asking questions to make sure you understand what the other person is saying. In other words, verbalize a quick summary followed by a question, confirming what you think you heard. This will send another signal that you’re following the person in conversation. It will also allow him or her to clarify points of confusion. Question-asking is a powerful tool associated with proper listening.

Body language is important

Listening loudly involves the use of body language in various forms. Our facial expressions, posture, and even our arms can play a big role in the way we listen.

Think about the last conversation you had when the other person leaned back in a chair with his or her arms folded. What message did you receive? Perhaps, the person was sending a message that he or she was not interested in what you had to say.

On the other hand, if a person is sitting upright with his or her hands on the table and leaning a little forward, this sends an entirely different message. Nodding one’s head from time to time in agreement is another way to affirm that you’re listening loudly.

Apply your ears

The last and most important way you can apply good listening skills is through Biblical knowledge and instruction. Paying attention and listening to the wisdom found in God’s Word should never be a passive event. We are told to apply both our hearts and our ears.  

Listening loudly is a way for Christians to offer sacrifice in the workplace. It is another fruitful exercise that takes the focus off of ourselves and puts it squarely on the needs of others. Genuine and authentic listening forces one to be focused on and concerned with what other people are saying. For those who struggle with listening, it is an exercise in humility that will stretch your capacity to demonstrate an important aspect of leadership!     

Apply thine heart unto instruction, and thine ears to the words of knowledge.

—Proverbs 23:12


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