Just Shut Up and Listen
Listening is a skill that we take for granted.
Most of us think we’re good listeners, but are we really? We all think we’re good drivers, but in the real world, some of us really aren’t. We all think we do a lot of things better than we actually do, including listening.
We hear people talking, but hearing is not listening.
Hearing is a physical response to sound. Listening is making the effort to understand what we’re hearing. We can ‘hear’ things, but we don’t have to ‘listen’ to them if we choose not to.
I took a bit of an internet dive to learn about listening.
My search surfaced a bunch of articles and videos about ‘active listening’, ‘critical listening’, ‘effective listening’, ‘listening strategies’, ‘how to be a better listener’, and more.
I learned about listening during a face-to-face conversation. I’m told I should face the speaker, use body language to show I’m listening, repeat or paraphrase what they say, be non-judgemental, not interrupt, empathise, and so on. All good advice.
But we don’t only listen with our ears, do we?
And we don’t only need to listen when someone is talking directly to us.
We listen when we read words on a page or screen. We listen when we watch a video or a movie or a television show. If you’re reading this, then you’re listening to me right now even though I wrote this a few days ago, we don’t know each other, and I’m pretty sure you’re nowhere near me.
Read a social media post and/or comments recently? You’re listening — but not with your ears — to someone else’s opinion, belief, worries, state of mind. Surveyed your customers recently or read emails or reviews about your product or service? You’re listening. Read some research or an article or a news item? Listening. Heard music, looked at art, read a comic, watched a video? Yep, all listening without realising you’re listening.
So, with all this listening going on, it seems to me that the advice about how to be a better listener is making it harder than it has to be.
To be a better listener, you only need to do one thing: Pay attention.
Give the speaker your full focus and listen to what they say. Put down your phone, remove distractions, and pay attention. It’s as simple as that.
Pay attention to the person speaking to you. Doesn’t matter if they’re not in the same room as you or they don’t even know your name or anything about you. Doesn’t matter if they’re talking to you through words in an article or social media post or lyrics. Doesn’t matter if they’re talking through pictures and images.
Just pay attention and you’ll already be a better listener than a lot of other people.
And that’s the big secret that’s actually no secret at all.
Just STFU and listen.
It’s not that hard.
Thanks for listening.