I mentioned how the inability to listen is a major factor in our communication failures.
This post goes deeper into that problem.
The most useful skill, and the most difficult to cultivate, is that of paying attention.
Full attention. Nothing allowed to distract.
The skill requires discipline, an effort to achieve.
Something that hinders being able to pay attention, aside from the distractions, is our propensity for assumptions.
We often assume things not even on the radar for the one speaking.
Making an assumption lies at the root of the willingness to finish someone's sentence for them. The arrogance of such a habit is overshadowed only by the feelings of worthlessness encountered by the speaker. "Why am I sharing with you, if you already know what I am going to say? It feels as if what I have to say is not important to you."
Another major problem--again this is more modern than other things--is "buzz words." This, of course, is because the listener is not paying full attention to the speaker. A favorite "buzz word" is spoken, and the listener interrupts with something that has little or no bearing on the topic at hand.
I had engaged a stranger at the lunch counter one day, and we were talking about different things of mutual interest. He said something that reminded me of a stupid commercial I had seen on TV.
I said, "that reminds me of something I saw on the TV the other....."
"I don't watch TV," he loudly interrupted, and went off on a diatribe of how people have sacrificed themselves to the tube.
Had nothing to do with our conversation, and effectively ended our talking.
There is a member of my family who is given to this same form of non-listening.
If I were to suggest that a particular group should use a democratic process to solve their problem, I would get a long lecture on why this country is not a democracy. Not germane to the discussion at all.
Not staying in tune with the context of the discourse also hinders effective communication.
We have a problem with the English language in many ways. One of those is the pronoun "you," which is used for both singular and plural references. I could not tell you the number of times I have been in a discussion where the subject is plural and I would use the pronoun "you," and the other party would get defensive. I would be totally lost as to what brought that on. I wasn't, we weren't, talking about that individual, but the group with which they were affiliated.
These are each assumptions, or what I like to call "filters" through which we listen.
They affect clear communication.
As the speaker, you are 100% responsible for the effectiveness of your communication.
It is up to you to ensure that the hearer is hearing correctly, and that you are speaking correctly and clearly.
However, it is next to impossible for you to be aware of all the possible filters your listener may have in place.
As the listener, you are 100% responsible for ensuring that the speaker is communicating effectively.
It is up to you to ask for clarification.
It is up to you to remove your filters.
It is up to you to know when you are making assumptions.
It is up to you to have your "awareness meter" running at full peak performance.
Nothing says "I care about you" more than full, undivided attention toward the one speaking.
Jesus spoke to this in Mark 4:24--"be careful how you hear..." The word 'careful' there means to "pay attention."
With all the noise and distractions going on around us in this day, it is more important than ever to "pay attention to what you hear."
Otherwise, you may be hearing sounds, but not necessarily listening--or, not hearing what is actually being said.
Maybe it is time for each of us to calibrate our "awareness meter."
Comments, questions, and criticisms are welcomed here. Please add to the discussion by giving yours. Thank you.