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The art of listening

Gary Lindstrom

They say 90 percent of success is just showing up. I would add the other 10 percent is listening after you arrive.

I have never met former President Bill Clinton. I know several people who have, and they all say the same thing. When you are around him, you become mesmerized. He is very captivating, engaging and charismatic. You feel as though he sincerely cares about you and your issues.

He listens.

I sometimes think I should suggest we print dotted lines around some columns to make them easier to cut out and put on the refrigerator. This is one of those columns.

Women are great listeners, and men are not. There. I said it. Sorry, guys, but it is true. Women pay attention, and men don’t. Women are said to have great intuition. Not true. Women just listen. They listen with their ears and their eyes.

The greatest favor a man can do for his wife is to listen to her. Not listen over the television sports report, but listen without the TV on. When a man and a woman get together after work, he should listen to what she has to say. Spend a half hour or so listening to her describe her day. The rewards will be immense. Forget that you are more interested in the punch line and not so much in the story. Listen to the story and you will be loved.

Listening is a complete package. If you are involved in active listening, you are not paying attention to anything other than the person who is talking.

I read once that you are not truly listening to someone if you are formulating your response to what he or she is saying. You are more concerned about your side of the conversation than you are with what he or she is saying. This is divided attention. Undivided attention is when you do not divide (split) your attention to concentrate on even a bit, your own thoughts, your television show, your appetite, your other needs or any other distraction.

Easy to say, but hard to do.

When someone is talking, you need to maintain eye contact. You need to have an open posture without your hands or feet crossed. You need to smile in a positive way. You need to nod your head to indicate you are hearing what the other person is saying.

A friend many years ago described her boyfriend. She said, “he makes me feel as if I am the only woman in the world.” She went on to say she also knew he was dating other women. That confused me at the time, but I finally figured it out (duh!). When he was with her, he gave her all his attention. The two of them could be in a crowded room, and he would make her feel like she was the only woman on the planet.

I can almost see the women reading this nodding in agreement. I can also see the men asking themselves, “What in the hell is he talking about?” Guys, if you practice this, you will know what I am talking about.

I have a Master of Arts degree in human communication. I always have boiled the subject down to talking and listening. Of the two, listening is 10 times more important than talking.

A couple of times a year I teach a three-hour course for Summit County employees on listening. We offer these classes free to the community. Give me a call if you would like to be on a list for the next class. Are you listening?

Gary Lindstrom is a Summit County Commissioner and regular columnist for the Summit Daily News.


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