We all appreciate the benefits of listening such as listening to ignite other people's thinking But most of us are not that good at it.
As Stephen Covey points out we tend to listen with the intent to reply rather than to understand or we fall into the trap of ditting other people's stories or we start to judge or evaluate what they have to say.
There are many techniques that we can learn to improve our listening ability such as empathic listening.
But there is a fundamental problem with listening that Patrick Callaghan pointed out to me after my recent post on ditting.
Even if we can withhold judgement and although we may be genuinely intent on listening, how ever hard we try to listen, the instant a spark of a response enters our heads we stop listening and start to compose our response silently in our mind.
It is hard not to do this, it's a conversation after all and we are afraid that when it comes our turn to speak we will have nothing to say or have forgotten our earlier ideas or that we may be somewhat bumbling in our response if we have not rehearsed it in our heads.
On the surface this may seem like an insurmountable barrier to really listening to someone. But maybe it is easier then we think.
Just drop all intention of replying at any point in the conversation and simply listen and when those responses pop into your head ignore them.
Then when there is a pause in the conversation and it makes sense to respond just go with it in real-time.
I realize this takes some confidence and trust that you won't make a bumbling fool of yourself and there may be longer silences between taking turn in the conversation and you may not even get to say much but then you are trying to listen after all. And in any case short periods of silence where everyone can reflect on things can only be good.