The Foundation of All Communication

"Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice." Shakespeare
"Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you'd have preferred to talk."
Doug Larson

As a trainer, consultant, manager of training or HR specialist you are expected to be a pro at communicating. And you probably realize there is always more to learn or at least revisit to stay fresh and current. If you are really interested in improving your communication skills, read carefully. Here's the answer: LISTENING.

Now, here are the questions. What is the foundation of ALL communication? What communication skill were you using long before you thought about reading, writing or speaking? Out of the four basic communication skills which one do you use the most? How did you do? That wasn't too hard was it? We should be off to a great start together.

Now here are a couple of questions that require you to think. How much time did you spend learning to read, write and speak clearly during your years of formal education? How much time did you invest on listening skills? Your first answer was probably similar to mine...lots. From first grade through high school and into college we are constantly learning and reviewing the skills of reading, writing and speaking. But how much were you taught about listening? Your second answer was also probably like mine. I never had a specific course nor any detailed instruction in listening skills during all of my formal education. Does that mean listening isn't important? Does it prove that we don't need to be taught how to listen? The answers are obvious.

Why is Listening Important?

Here's 10 reasons: 1) To receive information; 2) To be courteous; 3) To solve problems; 4) To make money; 5) To prevent waste; 6) To save time; 7) To be more efficient and effective; 8) To prevent accidents; 9) To build rapport; 10) To enhance relationships. How many can you add to this list? There are easily 25-30 additional reasons that you could add. Are you starting to see why listening is vital to your personal and professional life?

Research has shown we spend 70-85% of our business day communicating in one form or another. Out of that time we usually spend 45% listening; 30% speaking; 16% reading and 9% writing. Almost everyone believes they are good listeners. Unfortunately most of us listen at only 25% of our potential. Can this be improved? You bet it can!

One of the biggest challenges with listening is the illusion that it is being accomplished.

The Challenges with Listening

Have you ever had someone act as if they are listening to you? They may even say they are listening, but you're never quite sure until they show by their response that they understood what you said. Here are just a few of the challenges we face in the listening process: 1) Feeling time pressures; 2) Dealing with outside distractions; 3) Having a tendency to daydream; 4) Controlling emotional hot buttons; 5) Mental or physical fatigue; 6) Listening to a boring, monotone speaker; 7) Having problems with the speaker’s language or speech habits. Here are two more specific to telephone communications: A) Not being able to see the speaker; B) Having a poor connection over the phone lines or through the air waves if it is a cellular call. These and other hurdles can cause us to miss the message in the communication process and therefore lead to misunderstandings. That’s what we want to avoid.

Are there solutions to these challenges? Absolutely! Over the months ahead you can look forward to building your understanding and appreciation of this invaluable skill for anyone in a training, consulting, sales, marketing, customer service or human relations position. Remember, listening is the foundation of all communication. Have fun listening!

Author's Bio: 

About the Author: George Hendley works with coaches, consultants and business leaders who are successful, but not satisfied. He has been an active member of Dallas ASTD for over 14 years. George is first a learner, but also works as a mentor, coach, consultant and author as the learning need might require. You can contact George Hendley at 972.234.4377 or