Book reviews, art, gaming, Objectivism and thoughts on other topics as they occur.

Jan 29, 2006

Listening Skills

I have not, quite, decided whether I'm a really poor listener or just a really enthusiastic (and misguided) one. From what I understand, the best way to show that you're listening to someone is to acknowledge what they're saying in some meaningful way; to demonstrate that you actually understood them. In other words, non-committal grunts and head-nodding do not mean that you're listening. In my case, they mean that I'm reading a book or playing a computer game and I'm only vaguely aware that you're talking.

When I'm actually paying attention I tend to go over to the opposite extreme; I'm so determined to demonstrate that I understood that I can dominate a conversation with approving chatter. Not to mention the fact that I'm rather insistent on giving "advice". You don't have to take the advice, mind you, but I'm going to give it anyway. I also insist that people do reciprocal listening; they understood the fact that I understood and so forth. My conversations tend to be highly animated and go on at some length.

Yet, for all my efforts, I don't seem to really get what people are saying most of the time. Part of this could be simply that I have a completely different basis for looking at the world. I understood the end result of what you're saying, which is technically what you "meant", whether you knew it or not, but it's not necessarily what you intended to say. It can be very frustrating for everyone. Not to mention that I don't like it very much when someone misunderstands me. Not at all, in fact. This is not much helped by the fact that I like to play with words (I like words), so I will frequently use speech conventions that are extremely unfamiliar.

The first step in communicating clearly really seems to be practice in thinking clearly; once you know what you think, it's not as hard to communicate it to other people.

1 comment:

EdMcGon said...

The art of listening is similar to the art of wine tasting: If you chug it down, you may miss the subtleties.

Hear the words. Add in the unspoken signals, in order to determine the importance of each word within the overall meaning. Then roll them around in your head, considering the meaning. Was the statement unequivocal, or could the speaker have meant something else?

If there is doubt as to what was meant, then you must take another sip from the speaker's thoughts.

When you have no doubts as to the meaning, then it just becomes a matter of taste.