By Chris Chittenden
"Be a good listener. Your ears will never get you in trouble."
… Frank Tyger
Nearly every human being seeks to communicate with other human beings. We speak to them or use signs or symbols to put across our view of the world, speak our desires, ask for assistance and so on. Apart from the most physically or mentally impaired, we all have some capacity to communicate with others. Yet, despite being an innate human activity, communication continually shows up as an issue in organisations and life in general. Why is this?
Admittedly some are better at communicating than others, however, regardless of our skill, when we seek to communicate with others, we live in the expectation that others will listen to us. If I speak and you don't listen to me, then I may well feel ignored. It seems that I am not worthy of your attention. As a result, my self worth may feel diminished. When we speak or signal others, at some level, our sense of self is at stake. No wonder poor communication is such a big concern. It is not just about a message being passed to another person, it relates to the heart of who we are as a human being.
Yet do we always listen to others? I reckon I am a pretty fair communicator, yet I know I am not always listening to others when they speak to me. Sometimes, I don't realise they are addressing me, sometimes my mind is elsewhere and sometimes, if I am being honest, I am just not interested in what they are saying. At those times, I am generally not even aware of how they might be feeling as I am more caught up with how I am feeling.
I don't think this makes me a bad person. It just means I am human. I cannot pay attention to everyone all the time. I would go crazy! I will do my best to listen to others and certainly do so when I assess it as important, but I cannot show everyone that I am listening to them all the time. Yet, I also recognise that I may be showing them a lack of respect and diminishing their sense of self. It seems a balance has to be constantly maintained.
How about you? Do you always feel that others listen to you? When they don't, how do you feel? Do you believe you always listen to others? I invite you to think about these questions. It may lead to you being a better listener and someone who helps alleviate the poor level of communication around you.
© 2013 Chris Chittenden