“We only hear half of what is said to us, understand only half of that, believe only half of that and remember only half of that.” Mignon McLaughlin

How well do you listen? As a training professional, human resource specialist, manager, spouse, parent or friend you have numerous opportunities to listen to a variety of people during your day. How well do you do? Can you rate yourself as an excellent listener? Good? Fair? Or is it a ‘let’s not go there’ rating. More important, how well do others rate you in this critical communication skill?

Listening can make the difference between success and failure in all of your relationships. It is the basis for how we respond to a plethora of messages, sounds and even sights that we take in during our waking hours. If we learn to listen well it provides the primary connection factor for an emotionally resonant and successful relationship. It is the most basic communication skill connected with the development of Emotional Intelligence (EI) and the awareness of others. More on that later.

In our previous article we reviewed ten reasons why listening is important. We also noted over seven reasons why listening is challenging. Finally we recognized the fact there is plenty of room for improvement. Let’s continue building our understanding and improvement of this foundational communication skill.

Everyone Hears, but not Everyone Listens
Listening is not the same as hearing. Hearing is involuntary and non-selective. You hear 24 hours of the day. Even at night, while in a deep sleep, sounds you hear outside your bedroom can awaken you even though you weren’t consciously listening for them. Listening is accomplished by the decision of the listener. It is a conscious choice and requires the proper attitude and some practiced skills to make the process effective.

Did You See That?
Listening, as we choose to define it, is more than just receiving and distinguishing the sounds you hear with your ears. It also entails collecting and cataloging the multitude of visual observations you make that add a depth and richness to the incoming messages you constantly weigh and evaluate. Sight adds a multidimensional ‘receiving mechanism’ that gives you a total blend and ‘big picture’ perspective. Adding sight is what helps a vocal message come alive and add to the meaning and clarity of the message.

Your Listening Choice- An Emotional Connection?
You choose what you want to listen to because: a) you believe that the message or messenger is important; b) you are interested in the message or messenger; or c) you feel like listening at that moment. This also reflects your past and future choices as well. Normally you will be more attentive when you see a direct and personal benefit or negative result associated with your listening. These are emotional decisions and important ones.

If you receive a phone call while at work from someone you know, perhaps a good friend, relative or maybe even a ‘love interest’ you may want to stop what you’re doing and give time, interest and focus to the caller. You believe that the message (or messenger) is important and you may also have a personal vested interest in what is being said or in who the speaker is. That’s very natural.

Perhaps even more important is this deeper realization. Even though this conversation is probably not directly related to work you have an emotional connection to this person and that makes a crucial difference. We choose to listen and connect with those who we have a pre-existing emotional connection with. Even at times, with the potential of professional or personal loss or negative results, we will make the choice to listen. That’s how powerful an emotional connection is when related to this choice.

So how do we use listening to build this powerful connection? How do we walk away from a ‘first meeting’ either face to face or phone to phone with an irresistible emotional connection that instantly opens the door to influence and rapport? And, a link that also makes future connections easier, quicker and more impacting?

Listen! Listen well with your ears, your eyes and your heart and watch the attraction factor go to work for you.

Next month we’ll discover the four principles of the listening process, why listening is like Rodney Dangerfield and more on making the emotional connection. In the mean time, 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 15 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 George@georgehendleypresents.com