While vacationing on the Big Island of Hawaii, I had the time to recharge my batteries, calm the inner voice, listen to the silence, and appreciate the sheer beauty of this island paradise. I also learned the Hawaiians have a term which perfectly describes the skill of Listening Attentively:
Ho’olohe ka pepeiao
If you’ve been following what we’ve been expounding, you know we strongly believe the ability to listen effectively is critical to success in virtually any endeavor. In the absence of good listening skills, we are beset by a host of dastardly, demoralizing, and downright demonic problems. Here are some of them:
Lack of Understanding
If you can’t or won’t listen to another person, your understanding will suffer. Here’s a simple example:
You have just met with your boss and he gave you a performance review. During the conversation, he states:
“You need to work on punctuality. We can’t keep waiting for you to arrive at meetings, always late, so you need to improve on that.”
What you heard him say is “You need to work on functionality. We can’t keep waiting for you to arrive at meetings always late, so you need to improve on that.”
What you thought you understood is your boss wants you to improve the functionality of your meetings. In other words, they should be made more functional, more effective, and you should work on that.
What your boss really said was that you need to work on being ON TIME (punctual, not functional). Result: Confusion. Your grasp of the meeting, and your bosses understanding are quite different! In later conversation, he may remind you about the discussion you had about being “on time” and you will be confused about what he is referring to.
This is just a simple example, but it demonstrates the point. When two people are conversing, it is very easy for a word or words to be used that are not understood, misunderstood, or just never listened to. In all cases, there will be a lack of understanding and potential problems down the road.
When you aren’t listening, it is very easy to make assumptions that are untrue. This adds a huge amount of problems, tension, and stress to your life. The classic example is the student who is a “poor learner” in school, which is most often caused by poor attention and deficient listening skills. Bad grades pile on bad grades pile on bad grades, all leading to more and more stress. Once the hapless student is labeled a “problem,” they tend to become the problem, and this pattern frequently leads to drop outs, drugs and alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy, and a feeling of failure. Highly motivated teachers will often detect these problem learners and correct the problem on the spot, but too often the problem escapes notice. Most poor learners are also poor listeners.
Lack of Motivation
If you have poor listening skills, it is very easy to lose your zest for life. Since you are not clearly tracking what is happening, you frequently run into problems and circumstances that are frustrating. If you just don’t “get it,” it’s hard to stay motivated. Without your active participation in the conversations of life, you remain distant and alienated.
If the world revolves around “me, me and me” then most of the talking will be by you, yourself, and I. One of the most common causes of poor listening is excessive talking, because you simply can’t talk and listen at the same time. You frequently encounter this phenomenon at social gatherings, networking groups, or parties. There’s typically a “star of the show” present who insists on being the center of attention, rattling on and on about themselves. It’s curious that such people tend to assume that everyone listening to their dialogue is fascinated, when in fact most of the listeners are simply bored.
This condition tends to be a common human failing, but it is compounded by poor listening skills. Why would you bother to listen to anyone else, when you are completely consumed with thoughts about yourself? If the theatre of your mind is endlessly fascinating, it would make no sense to pay attention to another “movie” which is not so interesting as yourself. Also, in the absence of input from outside oneself, you tend to introvert and listen to yourself, and if you’re listening only to yourself, guess what? You can’t be listening to someone else at the same time!