As much as communication is thought of as verbal, non-verbal, visual, etc.; one key part of communication is Listening. “Listening” is just as important if not more important than our capacity to express ourselves.
Why do I think Listening is more important than expression? Well, because unless what we say or want to convey is received and listened to, there is no point in us talking or attempting to express ourselves. To me, Listening is a gift, an offering we give each other as we engage each other in a conversation. The quality of one’s Listening is subject to one’s ability to offer full attention to the one speaking.
How many times have we been in a situation when someone is talking to us, and while we nod to pretend listening, in fact, our minds are far out somewhere making plans, making lists, veering off on tangents, everywhere else except here and now attentive to the one speaking. There might be several reasons for this. It is too long to list the factors that detract from the quality of Listening, but in general, it can be that the person is Listening is bored, thinks that he already knows what the speaker will say, is preoccupied with other thoughts, has no time to give attention, or simply is too tired to Listen.
I am not sure that this is the best use of time and energy both for the speaker and the one listening.
Speak out when the timing is not right for listening
Although some cultures might frown on what I am about to say next, my experience has been that it is much more effective and authentic to speak out as a Listener to tell the person who is talking whether we are in the right mindset to listen, whether we are ready, fit and willing to listen, whether there are other preoccupations that might compete for attention and hence it might be better to re-schedule the conversation. This might be in the context of our personal lives and at times, even in our professional lives.
But what if, the Listening is to happen within our work and find ourselves obliged to listen to the one talking. What if we get bored? What if we are tired? What if we are just not interested? What then? In this case, it is important to find it in ourselves the ability to generate energy to give our attention to the speaker, even if we are not in the mood for that. It will be important to find within ourselves the will to find some anchors of interest in what is being said. We might have to set aside our own priorities and competing thoughts to give the one speaking the courtesy of being heard.