Betty and Wilma are sitting at a coffee shop. Betty has just experienced a divorce and is telling Wilma all about it. To a casual observer, it appears as if Wilma is listening. But take a look at the thoughts running through Wilma’s head: Really, people get divorced every day; it’s time to move on. It would help her if she lost some weight and got a job; that’s what I’d do. I hope this never happens to me.
Wilma thinks she’s a good listener. After all, she’s not interrupting or fidgeting, right? But what Wilma is actually doing is hearing Betty. Like so many of us, Wilma’s just not listening.
As toddlers, we learn to speak and to understand the words of others. As we grow, we learn to read and write, in addition to many other valuable skills. But few of us ever learn one of the most essential skills of all—how to really listen.
To truly listen takes our entire attention and focus. The rewards are immense, however: happier marriages and joyful families, improved communication at work, fewer disagreements between friends and loved ones, calmer and less stressful lives. And another benefit: when you listen well, you become a person other people want to listen to.
Genuine listening can be learned. In my next post we’ll discuss some of the keys to developing this important skill so you can reap the benefits of it in your life and business.