We’ve already discussed how important listening is and different steps the listener can take to improve the accuracy of their understanding. There are a few other points regarding listening that are worth noting.
Listening is an art. Unlike hearing, which is inborn, listening must be developed. Most people will find that they are spending the vast majority of their attention listening to their own inner dialogue rather than to the other person speaking.
It does not really matter if that inner dialogue is compiling a to-do list, thinking how boring the speaker is, what you think of what the speaker is wearing, or even if you are preparing your defense/rebuttal to what they are saying. If you are doing any of the above, then you are not actively listening to the speaker. When your inner dialogue consists of trying to fully understand what the other person is saying, and thinking about the applications and implications of this added knowledge then you can consider yourself a listener. When you can hear what they are saying and what they are not saying you can consider yourself a good listener. Who hasn’t had the following experience? You pick up the phone. Call a friend or relative. When you ask, “How are you?” You get a “fine” in response. Was that a distracted “fine? An annoyed “fine”? A neutral “fine”? Your friend wants you to hear the tone and respond in an appropriately caring fashion.
Note that “listen” has the same letters as “silent”. When you can silence your inner dialogue only then can you really listen.
It is also important to take the time to listen to yourself on a daily basis.
In our times the world is a much noisier place. We no longer have the luxury of a nice quiet commute to and from work with our cell phones, texting, what’s apping, tweeting, etc. Make sure you carve out quiet time to listen to yourself. Based on your knowledge, do you have reason to doubt the truth of what you heard? Are you uncomfortable with a situation you are dealing with? If so listen to the deep part of yourself that is telling you why? Is that part being rationale or emotional and using an outdated ATM (see Of Bank Accounts and ATMs)? If there is a rationale reason for the warning your inner self is giving you, what can you do to keep yourself safe assertively yet respectfully? If you don’t take the time to listen to your self, you run the risk of your inner voice shouting when you need to listen to someone else who is speaking. If your inner voice knows that it can rely on you to take care of it shortly it will allow you to hit the pause button on it.
Educators often tell students to “pay attention” or “listen” but we need to change that to teaching students how to listen. Like anything else, you can only teach listening if you yourself know how to do it. Even before we teach reading we need to teach students listening. Can you hear how important this is and understand why the sages put listening at the top of the list to successful learning?