In this article, we would like to explore the lost art of listening.
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” -Steven Covey
Pour a cup of coffee and prepare yourself.
First, we must establish the difference between hearing and listening. Hearing is the physical process of catching sound waves and the body’s actions to interpret those waves as sounds. Listening is what happens after those signals reach the brain. Therefore, hearing is physical (hence, “hearing impairment”) and listening is mental.
“Listening with the intent to reply”, as Covey calls it, simply indicates that one listens only so much to copy a subject and then paste that subject into their response. In other words, it isn’t total listening, only so much to snag a nugget and twist it into your own shape.
Listening with the intent to understand is completely different. It is the type of listening and concentration that requires the most energy (which is why lazy thinkers do this the least) and a depth of self-awareness that requires practice. In ‘listening to understand’ one must first realize that theirs is not the only knowledge and point of view. One must also grasp that someone else may have a more valid and useful thought to present. Finally, and perhaps most difficult, is the idea that one must be able to recognize and accept their own faults and be willing to open themselves to new ideas.
Listening to understand is dying. I would love to say it isn’t. Until people actually put in the effort required to learn the skill conversations will remain an immature game of, “yea but..” and “you think that’s cool..”.
Why not try it. The next time you’re in a conversation with a spouse, colleague, or friend truly listen to understand and not respond. It will take practice, but the depth of connection will be something you have not seen before.