The art of listening sadly seems to be dying. It is amazing how people keep saying “I know, I know” without letting you complete your sentence. I am so tempted to ask them to tell me what they know. I wonder if they are pompous, presumptuous or live in a fool’s paradise. Like the old saying, “empty vessels make more noise.” I have heard so many very wise people speak, who almost never use this phrase “I know I know”. And according to me, it is so evident that they know (they are oceans of knowledge), and hence there is no need to spell it out.
We hear about the importance of communication and soft skills a lot these days. Communication is a two way street, speaking and listening. More emphasis is sadly laid on the speaking part (we live in a marketing world) and the hearing part is sidelined.
Listening is important because it prevents miscommunication, can make a message more clearly understood and can help reduce the amount of frustration for the speaker. Listening is a skill that is required for all types of communication.
Listening is a skill of critical significance in all aspects of our lives-from maintaining our personal relationships, to getting our jobs done, to taking notes in class, to figuring out which bus to take to the airport. Regardless of how we’re engaged with listening, it’s important to understand that listening involves more than just hearing the words that are directed at us. Listening is an active process by which we make sense of, assess, and respond to what we hear. It’s easy to mistake listening as a simple, passive task, but it requires more than just the ability to absorb information from someone else. Listening is a process, and an active one at that.
It is so interesting (even flattering if I may say so) to see how scholars and wise people through the centuries have emphasized on the importance of listening. Without distorting their pearls of wisdom, I quote them below:
“Spend your leisure time in cultivating an ear attentive to discourse, for in this way you will find that you learn with ease what others have found out with difficulty.” – Socrates
“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” – Winston Churchill
“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.” – Bryant H. McGill
“If you make listening and observation your occupation you will gain much more than you can by talk.” – Robert Baden-Powell
“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest
act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” – Leo Buscaglia
“Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk.” – Mark Twain
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” – Stephen R. Covey
“Sometimes all a person wants is an empathetic ear; all he or she needs is to talk it out. Just offering a listening ear and an understanding heart for his or her suffering can be a big comfort.” – Roy T. Bennett
“Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking.” – Bernard M. Baruch
“The art of conversation is the art of hearing as well as of being heard.” – William Hazlitt
“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” – Ralph G. Nichols
“An appreciative listener is always stimulating.” – Agatha Christie
“Here’s the thing: When you become brilliant at listening, people feel that you care about them. When they feel you care about them, they begin to care about you. And when people care about you, your success becomes a part of how they define their success.” – Robin S. Sharma
And to end with this brilliant observation by Oprah Winfrey “You can’t go wrong by showing interest in what other people say and making them feel important. In other words, the better you listen, the more you’ll be listened to.”