Learning to Listen

It has been said that God gave us two ears and only one mouth, indicating the proper proportion of listening to speaking. And statistics make it apparent that listening is a lifelong lesson for us all to learn.

Of all the four communication skills—listening, speaking, reading, and writing—listening is the most frequently used. Research suggests that we spend about 70% of our waking hours communicating, with about 40% of that time spent listening, 35% speaking, 16% reading and 9% writing.

One of the most effective techniques for learning to listen is capitalizing on thought speed. While we speak about 125 words a minute, we mentally process information at about four or five times that rate, so the closer we pay attention the more we remember.

And good listeners also realize that listening has a visual component, as nonverbal factors contribute as much as 80% of message meaning. Such factors as voice tones, voice volume, facial expressions, hand gestures, and body posture can all carry important meaning.

When all is said and done, enhanced listening centers primarily on common sense and courtesy. Perhaps the most applicable rule to follow is simply a revised version of the Golden Rule: “listen to others as you would have them listen to you.”