According to Dr Stephen R. Covey in his seminal works, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, most people ‘listen’ at one of four listening levels:
Ignoring – Where we aren’t even pretending to pay attention when someone is talking to us.
Pretending – This is when we want the person to think we are listening, even when we aren’t, so we may nod our heads and agree without really paying any attention at all.
Selective – Only hearing certain parts of a conversation – the same way you only partially listen to your children rattle on when you are trying to do something else like watch TV or have a separate conversation with another adult.
Attentive – Paying attention to the words and really focusing on what is being said, but still just not being the ultimate listener.
Attentive listening is as far as most people go, but there is one addition level that very few people ever practice. Indeed, before I read his book and went through the training, I wasn’t even aware of the term Empathic listening.
Empathic listening is explained as: listening with the intent to understand.
Empathic listening puts you in the place of the speaker. You get to see and understand things from their perspective, not your own, and this is a critical skill when it comes to listening to people.
With experts estimating that only ten percent of our communications with one another is represented by the words we speak, 30 being represented by our sounds, and a whopping sixty percent of our communication coming from our body language, it’s important to listen and pay attention to more than just the words being said.
You could go so far as to say, the practiced empathic listener listens not only with his or her ears, but with their eyes as well.
So, Why is it Important To Listen To People?
Hearing people will tell you what someone said. Listening to someone will help you understand what they meant. It will help you to understand their point of view, and what they were really trying to communicate.
Listening to people helps avoid misunderstanding, usually brought about by your hurried desire to reply, or from your trying to respond based on your personal experiences, which may or may not even be relevant to the other person’s situation.
When you truly understand where the other person is coming from, you are in a much better position to relate your own point of view back to them; you will be a far better communicator.
“Listen, or your tongue will make you deaf.” ~ Native American Proverb