Listening is a skill. We often think of listening as being the same as hearing, but it’s not. Hearing is one of the five senses that involves the ear. Whereas, listening is the conscious processing of all types of sounds and input – which could include speaking, music, noise, etc. — received by the ears during communication. We can hear something and not listen. Most any parent has experienced this firsthand when they give their child instructions, and the child clearly hears the instructions but cannot follow them because he was not listening.
Indeed, listening is one of the most underutilized and, in many people, underdeveloped skills. This is true of kids but it is also quite true of adults. Many people hear just fine and yet are terrible listeners. While it is never fun to deal with someone who is a bad listener, it is particularly challenging to deal with a weak listener at work. That is because at work, listening is the process by which a person – through direct interaction – gains an understanding of the needs, demands, and preferences of the boss, clients, coworkers, subordinates, and vendors. Poor listening results in a hazy understanding, which in turn leads to mediocre results. That said, if listening well so important, then why is it a skill deficient in so many? More importantly, what constitutes good listening and what kinds of things can a person do to become a better listener?