Why It’s Important to Be a Good Listener
People do a lot of talking. They feel the need to share their every thought, especially online, when they are not necessarily talking but still communicating. Sometimes people forget that communication goes both ways. Somebody needs to hear what is being said.
I’ve come across many talkers in my life but very few listeners. I’m not talking about fake listening, the polite acknowledgement of someone’s thoughts. A true listener not only takes it all in, but they use it to respond either verbally or non-verbally to what the other person is saying.
A good conversation includes both participants taking in what is being said and responding back in a thoughtful, engaging way. Here's why it's important to be a good listener.
A statue listens to a seashell
Advantages to listening
There are many benefits to being a good listener.
- Listeners have a more balanced perspective of the world. They hear two sides of a story and consider them both. The world is not in black and white, and they don’t always have a definitive answer or opinion. Every perspective matters, even if it's to strengthen your own argument.
- They are good gift givers. They know people’s changing interests, and they pick up on ideas about what people want or need. They can even come up with ideas for gifts that people may like but not even know they wanted. When people say that "it’s the thought that counts,” this is what they mean.
- They are better able to read people. Taking the time to listen to someone gives them an idea of their underlying mindset and observe their body language. They know what will anger, excite, or sadden a person. They are rarely caught off guard by others’ emotions.
- Listening inspires creativity. When writers and artists are searching for a new idea, listening to others really helps. To hear about other people's lives, perspectives, worries, successes, and interests can be the muse that jump starts their next project.
- Listeners are less self-abosrbed. People obsessed with their own problems, concerns, and needs throws them into a self-absorbed rut. Listening to others’ problems takes the focus off of their own and teaches them how to problem solve.
- Listeners are better able to keep arguments from getting out of hand. Listeners are better able to read people and can help prevent arguments and misunderstandings. They know what subjects and tones to avoid.
- Listeners have a better memory. People who pay attention to what is going on around them absorbs details which stick in their mind. It gives them a different perspective of a moment because they see a situation from multiple viewpoints through the filter of their own perspective.
- Listeners understand directions better. They are the ones taking notes (mental or written) while instructions are being explained when others are anticipating starting the task. They are there to provide answers when the non-listeners have a question that was already answered.
Buy a copy of Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell here, and better understand why listening is important.
Balancing listening with speaking
Despite these advantages, it is not always easy to be a good listener. Talkers seek them out like a rare item, and when they find a good listener, they tend to go haywire in expressing their every thought to them. Sometimes they forget to leave room in the conversation for the listener to share their own thoughts or even respond at all.
Sometimes the conversation isn't interesting to a listener. A person can drone on about their favorite topics, assuming that everyone is as passionate about them as they are. This isn't always the case, and listeners are usually too polite to change the subject, don't know how to, or can't get a word in even if they do. When this happens, even the best listeners tend to tune out after awhile, and the talker may as well be talking to themselves.
Listeners tend to be overburdened with the problems of others. They can dwell on these problems, and many times they are issues that cannot be fixed, at least by the listener. Listeners have to learn how to listen to problems, give advice, and not take the problem home with them.
Listeners can also be made to feel that their problems and opinions don't matter. Being a good listener doesn't mean that you don't have good ideas or valid emotions and experiences to share. They just need to find another person willing to listen. When two good listeners come together, they can create balanced, productive, and ultimately enjoyable conversations.
Whether you are listening or talking, balance is the key to any type of communication. You have to do a little of both and be aware of how much you are doing of each. That's not to say that all communication should be analyzed and scored for content and quality. It's just something to keep in the back of your head while engaging with others.
Are you a good listener?
Think of the last conversation that you had.
What was it about?
When was the last time that you were the listener instead of the speaker?
How many evened out conversations have you had where you were able to both talk and listen?
Leave your comments below!