The way our brains are wired, we hear everything all the time. This is because there is simply no way to shut our ears.
They are literally holes in our heads that pick up the invisible vibrations around us. When these vibrations run into our eardrums they are converted into sound.
We hear “what we want to hear”
It’s pretty amazingly simple when you think about it. Sound is “ever-present” and we technically never miss any of it. Yet if this is true, why are there so many “misunderstandings” all the time? You know why? Because WE DON’T LISTEN ALL THAT WELL. We hear just fine, but we don’t “listen”.
Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing in and of itself. In fact there are many good uses for not listening to every single sound that enters your head. For instance, when are you walking down a busy sidewalk, you can “hear” people talking but you don’t really listen to it and follow their conversation. It’s NOT VITAL TO YOU. So you tune it out.
This reminds me of when I used to drive one of my work vans that had a roof rack up on top. That rack used to make a tremendous “hum” on the highway as the air rushed around it. So much so that any first time passenger in the van would ask me what that noise was. That question used to always catch me off-guard because I didn’t notice it at all. I had become accustomed to it.
We do the SAME THING when conversing with others
Having a conversation with someone is a task we’ve all done a million times over. As a result we tend to go on “auto-pilot” at times. We pretend to be listening to whatever is being said, but our thoughts are many times thinking of something else, totally unrelated.
Some people aren’t very good at “pretending to be paying attention”, and you can spot them easily. But many others are “professionals” in a sense, and they can fool anyone into thinking they are hanging onto every word you are saying. In either case, it doesn’t help if you are a businessperson.
As a business owner you need to avoid the temptation of placing your brain on “auto-pilot” when talking to people. You need to avoid it at all costs. You can’t do it with your employees, your potential customers or your current ones. You can’t do it at all! So don’t forget to remind yourself… LISTENING IS A “CHOICE” .
An exercise that will improve your listening
Take a day and go to the park, the beach or anywhere else where you can relax for 20 minutes. Bring a chair or sit on a bench and JUST LISTEN. Try to hear the wind blow, a bird tweet or a frog croak. Then listen some more for those secondary sounds that are even more remote, perhaps a bee flying by some flowers. Take it all in. Don’t miss a sound!
Once you do that listening exercise, apply that “level of listening” to those you communicate with. Pay attention not only to the words others speak, but to the tone and the body language that it was packaged with. Doing so will provide two main benefits. First it will greatly reduce the occurrences of misunderstandings and secondly it will greatly increase your ability to understand other peoples point of view.