The human animal is a terrible listener.
Allow me to correct that statement. The average human animal is a terrible listener. Good thing those of you who already follow this blog are clearly ahead of the game. Everyone else? Not so much. So, let’s get everybody else up to speed, shall we? Because certainly the need to improve listening skills does not pertain to you, just them. Those people. The ones who don’t know how to listen.
But just in case you’re not quite sure about the level and quality of your own listening skills, here are 5 steps you can take to ensure you listen like a jackass. Let’s see how you measure up.
1. ASSume that everybody sees and experiences the world just like you. If they have a different opinion, they must be mistaken. Don’t waste your valuable time listening to others’ points of view to try to understand how they came to think or feel the way they do. Of course your perspective is the right perspective. How can anyone else’s experiences possibly affect how he or she views and interprets the world around him or her? And when another person dares to try to offer a different opinion that conflicts with your own? Don’t even bother to listen because it’s obvious that your experiences that have shaped how you view and interpret the world are the only legitimate and valid experiences to take into consideration. All other opinions are invalid.
2. Appease the other person talking to you by providing those “feedback” markers that are guaranteed to fool him or her into thinking that you’re actually paying attention. For example, just make sure you continue to nod in confirmation and say “uh-huh” every minute or so. This will absolutely help improve all of your relationships, personal and professional alike. Not to mention it will free up brain space to think about other things. That’s what you should be doing anyway when someone else is talking. After all, you’re a busy person and can’t be bothered with taking the time to completely focus on the person right in front of you or the person who’s on the phone with you. You can partially listen to that person while you think about other things. It’s easy. You’re great at multitasking. Besides, everybody knows if it’s really important, they should just post it on Facebook anyway.
3. React as emotionally as possible when someone says something you don't agree with or uses language you don’t like. Listening for the meaning behind the message is a waste of time. And really, can anyone blame you for becoming emotional and reacting whenever anyone says something you don’t like or uses language you don’t like? They should know not to use certain words around you anyway. They should know those words will trigger an emotional response. So you shouldn't be held responsible for your own actions after that point. As soon as someone says something that irritates or offends you, immediately react with an emotional response. As a matter of fact, it’s always a good idea to let them know that you’re listening carefully by also providing a physical response, like a slap across the face or a hole in the wall. That will absolutely give them the feedback that says you are listening and in complete control of yourself. Everyone knows that the best decisions are made with emotional reactions, not careful listening and critical thinking.
4. Listen literally. Always. Take everything you hear literally and at face value. After all, human beings are really robotic creatures by nature right? There’s no depth to them. There’s no need to pay attention to little things like intonation, eye contact, body posture, or facial expressions. Those are unimportant. You keep everything at the surface level, so too should everyone else. If your partner says that he or she is happy, then don’t worry about the shoulder shrug and lack of enthusiasm that came along with that statement. After all, if they really aren't happy or if they disagree with something you just said, wouldn't they just come right out and say it? Why should you have to pay attention to anything else other than what is actually said? It’s exhausting looking for nonverbal cues. If only everyone could be a literal as you are with everything you say, then your relationships would work so much better.
5. Listen defensively. You are fully aware that a vast majority of the time, whenever other people are talking, they are talking about you. And they are usually doing so in a negative manner. You are not only a product of, but you are the center of this universe that is filled with negativity. That's not your fault. The co-worker who just asked if you would be able to meet the deadline is clearly inferring that you’re incapable of getting your work done on time. Surely they weren’t thinking about offering help or perhaps seeing if an extension would be possible. When your partner asks you how long you’ll be out while running errands or meeting up with friends, it’s not because he or she is making plans for dinner or figuring out how much time they have to run their own errands. Clearly it’s because they’re being nosy and just want to control you. Perceiving everything as a personal attack is actually the most helpful listening skill to develop. After all, the negativity is in everyone else’s attitude, not your own.
Jennifer Furlong has 25 years’ experience in the communication field and teaches communication and public speaking courses in the Savannah area. She earned a B.A. and M.A. in Communication from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. She currently resides in Richmond Hill, Ga. with her family of canines, felines, and humans. Let's be social! Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter. Just look for Professor SpeechLady. See you in cyberspace.
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