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How to be a good listener

Disha Kathuria
27th Sep 2017
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Let’s start the article with a mind-opening quote by Richard Branson:

Communication makes the world go round. It facilitates human connections, and allows us to learn, grow, and progress. It's not just about speaking or reading, but understanding what is being said -- and in some cases what is not being said. Communication is the most important skill any leader can possess.”

Most people think communicating is all about talking, but it simply isn’t so. We communicate when we listen, or more accurately, how we listen. Have you ever paid conscious attention to how you listen? Are you able to grasp the intention of the speaker? Are you able to comprehend the said and the unsaid?

Image: Shutterstock

Image: Shutterstock

If you have reserved your ears for conference speeches or boring official dinners, you have never used your ears at all. Ears are but the extension of your brain and your brain is the manifestation of your mind – the presence or absence of it that is. If you are mindless of who you are, you’ll be thoughtless of where you are or why you are there and eventually you will be careless in what you hear and listen.

The behaviour of most young entrepreneurs today is being guided by a single phrase – ‘Make your presence felt.’ Its interpretation is left to their juvenile reasoning and comprehension. Most of these sprightly young things believe entrepreneurship is all about playing dress. In order to make their presence felt, therefore, they indulge in buying expensive suits and hosting parties that are beyond their means. Others think it’s all about making a show of all their virtues (and lack of it) at the same time. This queer bunch will be simultaneously humble and arrogant. In a case of corporate schizophrenia, they will also be funny ‘n’ serious, intelligent ‘n’ stupid, awkward ‘n’ confident, right ‘n’ wrong at the same time. They make their presence felt, heard, and seen indeed but never quite in the way they imagined.

So where does the fault lie? Can we blame the youth alone for their attitude (or lack of it)? A bad student is the result of a bad teacher, bad environments, and problematic culture. Therefore, in order to fix the student and put the misled entrepreneur back on track, we must begin to question those who flaunt the torch of light and guidance even though they themselves are engulfed in numbing darkness.

The so-called leaders must re-asses what they know and question the source(s) of their acquired information. For starters, let’s question what we know and understand about listening.

Listening is not something that happens inside the ears. It’s what takes place between them. Ears are simply tools that are used by information as gullies or corridors to the brain. The brain, our body’s CPU, is a sort of collector and organiser of our thoughts and emotions. Our thoughts and emotions are in turn based on the information we have acquired by our five faculties. Our faculties keep us alive, but they make us human only when we are aware of what we see, what we hear, what we eat, what we feel, and whether all of these are in harmony and balance with each other.

Listening is therefore, a very important aspect of learning. When you choose who or what you listen to and why, you are able to really hear what they speak. But listening to everyone, that’s like committing a professional hara-kiri or a corporate suicide, isn’t it? If an entrepreneur listened to everyone – from the vendor to the HR to the news to the employee – he or she will get mentally and emotionally mobbed. So where does listening begin? And where does it end? The answer is one – it begins and ends with you.

Careless listening is the handicap of our times. For the first time in history, we are facing people who are deaf not because they can’t hear but because they don’t wish to hear. There’s no ear plug that can fix this defect. No app that can offer a temporary respite. A careless listener not only makes their own lives difficult but puts everyone else’s in jeopardy too. We have met many such people. Many times we’ve been those people, and the result has always been agonising. Yet, we continue to listen with ears wide shut.

This must stop.

It must if we wish to guide humanity and our businesses in the direction of fullness and happiness. Learn to listen. Learn it like you would learn a new instrument. Slow down. Focus on your thoughts. In the beginning they’ll be an unsolvable jumble. But with time and due diligence, they will begin to fall in line. And as you begin to hear yourself, you will also begin to listen to others. And once we connect with absolute clarity, we will make improve our prospects at life and work, one day at a time.

Also read: Why entrepreneurs need to be good listeners (and how to be one)

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