Listening: a how-to guide

Listening is something most of us likely do not consider to be a skill, but rather an innate characteristic of being a human being. I disagree, however, as I do, in fact, consider listening to be a skill, and I firmly believe it is a skill most of us could use some assistance with.

I think when people contemplate listening, they visualize having a conversation with someone in which they acknowledge what is being said. That’s listening on a basic, level, sure. But consciously listening to someone and absorbing what they are saying while and after they are saying it is what listening should encapsulate, and I don’t think nearly enough of us understand this element of listening.

Say a good friend reaches out and asks to meet up to chat about some unfortunate happenings in their life. You agree to chat with them, and allow them to speak without interruption. Once the friend in question has finished telling you everything, you part ways and see your conversation simply as a means for your friend to vent. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this approach, however, if your friend reached out to discuss some obstacles they’re facing, it is likely they wanted some constructive criticism or a change in perspective, both of which are key components of listening.

Listening is a skill, and I would even go so far as to classify it as an art. It isn’t something that can be perfected overnight, but rather requires time and experience as well as patience. Listening is so, so much more than hearing what someone is saying; it’s offering support and/or advice when requested; it’s giving tough love when necessary; and it’s acknowledging what should or shouldn’t be done to potentially better or worsen a specific scenario. I could go on, but I hope you see my point here.

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