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Communication Skills (Part I - Listening)

 Most of the people are mistaken that more talking means better conversation. The more you talk, the lesser you know of the other person. I highly doubt you will have good communication with someone that you don’t even know anything about. So, to be better at conversation, we need to master the art of listening.

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” ― Stephen R. Covey.


In my very first blog, we talked about “Confirmation bias” which says that we as a human are psychologically programmed in such a way that we accept the ideas/opinions that align with ours and reject the ones that do not. When we are offered a different opinion, we bombard the other person with our ideas with an intent to assert our opinion. When we are listening to somebody, we are constantly accepting/rejecting his ideas by splitting them into parts that we believe and the ones that we do not. So, during a conversation even when we are listening to somebody else, we keep ourselves in the spotlight. This is not how good conversation is supposed to be. A good communicator keeps the person that he is talking to in the spotlight and gives him/her a chance to open up.


Why you should be a good listener?

The problem with people being bad listeners is their intent. As already mentioned above that we listen with the intent to reply. But if we could change our intentions completely then we might be able to motivate ourselves to listen more often. Let us try to think of it this way, “As iron sharpens iron, a man sharpens man”. When we do not listen to others, our knowledge stays the same. We know the same as we knew before. But when we listen to others then there is a possibility that we will learn something new. So, when we listen with the intent to learn, we are more motivated to do so.


A subtle tool for negotiation


Negotiation is a discussion aimed at reaching an agreement. Each party in the negotiation is trying to get something out of the negotiation. In negotiation, how could you negotiate if you do not even know the other side? If you will just keep on putting your side without listening to the side of the other side, you will just be labeled as an inconsiderate asshole and the discussion will just keep on heating with no end in sight. But when we listen to the arguments of the other sides, we are more likely to decide by considering the terms of both sides for mutual benefit. Therefore, when big companies are trying to hit a deal, they hire professionals. These professionals apart from their designated skillset are very good listeners, they listen to the terms of both sides(the provider and the buyer) and try to formulate a plan which is beneficial for both parties. This what the marriage counselors do, they just listen to the story of both sides and help them come to terms.


Why is “listening” such a powerful tool?


In this world of constant noise where everything is just making noises with no-one to listen, can you even imagine the power of someone who listens? People literally cannot find anyone who listens. So, when they find someone like this, they do not know where to stop and end up telling some really weird things. People will connect with you more often because you are a rare one. A good listener has an intense power, as Jordan Peterson puts it, “If you are in a conversation and it is dull then you are dumb.” When you listen to someone, they feel as if you care about them. Hence, you will connect more with people.


An exercise to improve your listening:


Now I would give you a way to teach yourself to be a better listener. I am not going to offer you the same generic advice everyone offers like make more eye contact, give verbal and non-verbal feedback, etc. These things just address the tip of the iceberg. You cannot become a good listener by following advice like these, this will come naturally to you when you will become a better listener. Before I give you the advice, I want to ask you a question. Do you play music with an intent to listen to it or just to make some noise so that you feel distracted or less lonely? If you listen to the music with an intent to listen, then congratulations my friend, you are already a good listener, you just need the motivation to listen (and I already taught you that above). But if you just use music as a means of distraction and you just talk through to it, then the real problem lies here. When you cannot listen to the melodies, how can you expect yourself to be good at listening rants that people make? So, you might have got the idea of the advice that I am about to offer you. The advice is simple, listen to music 20 minutes every day with an intent to listen and enjoy it. Do not even talk for a second during your music sessions. This will not only make you a better listener but will also calm your mind. It will also train your brain to concentrate more.

Tune in for the second part of this blog where I will teach you the second basic part of communication that is “speaking”. Till then be safe and try the advice offered above.


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