Listening is a higher level skill than hearing. It is difficult especially when done well. It is a psychological process which requires perception and understanding. It is reaction to sound and hearing with thoughtful attention, attaching meaning to what is heard. It is a skill one learns. People learn to “tune in” or “tune out” – we hear many things but we listen to few.
Because listening varies with the different situations, there are four types of listening: (1) empathetic; (2) informative; (3) evaluative; and (4) appreciative. Sometimes a listener must empathize with the speaker to understand and offer moral support and concern. Other times, a listener wants to gain information and seek knowledge for the purpose of learning. The listener may evaluate or critique a message in order to confront or challenge. Or, the listener may simply seek enjoyment or entertainment with no interest in information or evaluation. The type of listening will affect the manner of listening!
Listening is important! Some people are naturally good listeners, though most are better talkers. It has been said that God gave us one mouth and two ears so that we could listen twice as much! Iconic western movie star John Wayne put it this way: “You’re short on ears and long on mouth.” People do seem to enjoy hearing themselves speak more than listening to others. Carpenters have a rule; measure twice, cut once. That principle could apply to listening and talking!
Consider these various reasons why people should listen:
1. Listen to acquire facts – gather information and gain knowledge.
2. Listen to analyze facts and ideas – determine the nature of the information.
3. Listen to evaluate facts and ideas – determine the significance and worth of the information.
4. Listen for entertainment – enjoy, relax or be encouraged!
5. Listen for inspiration – feel reassured and have hope!
6. Listen to improve your communication – learn from others.
7. Listen to show concern and interest – strengthen relationships and demonstrate empathy.
Listening is one of the greatest gifts one can give! It is also a discipline we must all develop.