“L” Is For Listen

By: D. A. Slinkard

The next letter in our series is “L” and stands for “Listen.” I never thought I would be writing an article about the importance of listening; however, I have learned to never say never! In fact, I recently celebrated nineteen years of being married to my beautiful wife, and I have found that when I listen to what my wife says versus just hearing her, I tend to stay out of trouble. When I listen to my wife, I can better comprehend what she is saying, and I am not just hearing the words she speaks.

In fact, I believe this is a problem our society is plagued with in that too many people do not take the time to listen to others when they speak. I think back over the course of my life and wonder how many arguments or misunderstandings I could have personally prevented if I would have just listened to the individual I was speaking with, instead of already thinking about what my rebuttal was going to be. Do you ever find yourself in a conversation, not listening to the other person, instead just waiting for your opportunity to jump in and speak what is on your mind? Yep, I am guilty of this too.

I believe it takes a special skillset for an individual to learn how to listen. If listening was easy, then everyone would be able to do it. Bosses would not have to repeat the instructions twice, fast food drive-thru would be much faster…and possibly the food orders would actually be correct. I know, I may be pushing a little too far on that last one, but just imagine a world in which people took the time to actually listen to what others were saying. I wonder how many “police brutalities” would not exist because of listening to direct commands the first time. I wonder how many unemployment lines could be avoided because of listening to the instructions of the company. I wonder how many divorces could be prevented because of spouses taking the time to care what the other has to say?

The ability to listen really does have more of an impact on our lives than what we realize.  How many times could I have done better on exams throughout my educational career if I would have just listened a little harder to what my teacher was teaching in the classroom? Instead, I was thinking about a baseball field or hitting a hard line drive into the gap to win the ball game or thinking about anything other than the subject being taught in the classroom. This all begs the question to how much trouble could be avoided by “troubled” teens if they would just listen to the teachers in the classroom setting?

How does a person become a better listener? First, we need to listen to learn, not to just be polite, yet too often this is what happens. We take no real interest in what the other person is saying, thus it is easier for us to become distracted. We cannot control what others do; however, we can control ourselves, and we need to focus in on exactly what the other person is saying. When we take the time to ask questions, not only do we listen better but we also have a better understanding of what the other person is trying to say. It can also be beneficial to repeat back what you heard because in case of misunderstanding, this is a perfect way to clear up any confusion.

Another important aspect to think about when learning how to listen is to think about and pay attention to your talk/listen ratio. I have heard it said like this, “You have two ears and one mouth, so you should listen twice as much as you talk.” What does your listen-to-talk ratio say about you? I have found it helpful to wait until others are finished speaking until I begin to respond.

To achieve success in life, there are some things we need to work on to improve who we are as individuals. I am not always the best listener, but it is something I am working on.  I am curious as to what are some of the struggles other people have.  Feel free to email me and let me know what you struggle with and how you overcome these struggles. Who knows – your struggle could be one of the topics for an upcoming article for Slinkard On Success.

By: D. A. Slinkard

D.A. Slinkard would love your feedback. You can contact him at da.slinkard@gmail.com