In the movie version of the musical "Dreamgirls", the character Deena, played by Beyonce, has a pivotal moment in the film where she finds her inner voice and strength to realize that she isn't happy. In the song "Listen" she belts out "..I am alone at a crossroads. I am not at home in my own home. I have tried to say what's on my mind, but you should have listened." How many times in life have we felt that same way?
- A boss who doesn't listen to the challenges we are facing and provide the support we need.
- An angry customer that doesn't want to hear about our policies.
- A spouse so pre-occupied that he/she doesn't take time to ask you how you are doing.
Many people think that they are good listeners; few are, however. The average person spends about 80 percent of their working day in verbal communication. About half of that is spent on listening. However, the average person's listening effectiveness is only 25 percent, proving there is a difference between hearing and listening.
Hearing is a physical process based upon the reception of stimuli that involves sound waves being received by the eardrum.
Listening is a deliberate and psychological process based upon focusing and interpreting stimuli. Listening is continually evaluating messages.
While we can't control other people's listening effectiveness, we can at least control our own---ask others how they are doing; be in the moment and focus on what a person is truly saying; try and put yourself in the other person's shoes to see where they are coming from.
Hopefully, by improving our own habits and listening more intently, we can foster a healthy dialogue where both parties feel heard and respected.
After all, isn't that the dream for all of us?