Developing Authentic Listening Skills

The act of listening is a skill that is frequently overlooked, however, it is of utmost importance in all professions. Active listening is a skill we should develop not because of what people can offer us, but because we owe it to everyone.

In current times, we have been starved of the genuine act of listening. With the fast-paced nature of life, we make up the excuse that we don’t have time to intentionally listen to those around us. We’re losing our listening skillset because we’re not using it. With time, the scope of our digital environment is going to expand, which makes it even more important for us to come out of ourselves and focus on other people. 

According to Dan Oblinger, author of Life or Death Listening: A Hostage Negotiator’s How-to-Guide to Mastering the Essential Communication Skill, listening is a vanished art. He believes that everyone could be an excellent listener if we were willing to put in the time and have the discipline. He views listening not as a complex human activity, but as a simple one that is hard to execute. Most importantly, Oblinger believes that intention is at the core of being a good listener. When we simply receive information through oral communication without intentionally processing it, we lose our sense of personal connection.

Oblinger also delves into the fact that when we actively listen, we form an authentic bond that creates the potential for a deeper relationship. However, it’s important to note that hearing alone cannot accomplish this. When we don’t allow the information to fully resonate, we can’t develop trust, we can’t become persuasive, and we can’t become influential. Overall, hearing is biological and listening is magical.

To put it simply, Oblinger believes listening is an exercise of empathy which requires us to recognize the dignity and immeasurable worth of other people. There’s a certain dignity in listening to people that we owe everyone. However, Oblinger explains this is becoming less of a reality due to the fact that people are becoming increasingly offended with information they don’t agree with. From his perspective, society is extremely polarized which is leading us to silence others because their opinion doesn’t align with ours. Ultimately, Oblinger views listening as one of the foundational activities that help us recognize people’s humanity because we see people as people. 

From my perspective, it’s essential we manage our biases so we can ensure everyone gets the right to be heard. In order to become intentional listeners, there is a really good chance we’re going to get our egos bruised, battered, and potentially broken. I believe this is something we are going to have to come to terms with in order to remain connected to those around us.

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