I find that many people quickly become bored reading about communication, even though good communication is the most important skill we need for forming and maintaining good relationships. Communication and conflict resolution relies heavily on both talking and listening but since I may only have a short time before losing your attention, I will give just one example in answer to the question, ’What is listening?’
I want you to imagine your life is in danger and you have been sent to see a man who has an important message for you. You believe your life depends on understanding his message. He unfortunately has a speech impediment and, for that reason, many of his words are impossible to understand. Then you discover he can’t write.
How would you listen? I imagine you would listen intently to the few words you can understand. You would listen to the pitch and tone of his voice, and quickly discover you have the senses of smell, feel and sight to listen with. In order to save your life, you would watch every facial expression, hand gesture and body movement. You would take note of his emotional state and anything your senses picked up as a possible clue until you believed you completely understood the message.
However, you would not then take a chance on how accurate your understanding is and just walk away. You would seek to confirm with him, as best you could, what your understanding of the message is; which he can then confirm or deny. You would continue to seek understanding and checking the accuracy of that understanding until you did get it right. That is listening.
By Bob Myers, author of Travelling the Road of Peace and Happiness.