I remember how a fellow soldier, when given a list of items to be brought from the military canteen, was told 'jo like kar diya hai woh lao' (bring the items listed in writing) returned to tell me, to my surprise, that liquor was out of stock.
"Why are you telling me this?" I said.
"Because you asked me to", he replied. "Sir, you said liquor lao."
It suddenly struck me. He had not been listening. He had mixed up 'likhkar' with 'liquor'. In his defence the words do sound similar but it happened because he was not paying attention. And my fault, I did not take feedback. I made no efforts to confirm whether what he heard was the same as what I said. The consequences of such a miscommunication can be as serious in war as they can be in life where effective communication is the keystone on which all relationships - personal, social and professional are built.
Importance of listening
We were conditioned to be poor listeners. The emphasis is on 'speaking' when it comes to being groomed by parents or teachers. No one ever taught us how to 'listen'. There was no mention of it and we never focused on the importance of the 'art of listening' as a vital aspect of effective communication. It was something that just happened without any conscious effort.
While often used synonymously, hearing and listening are really two very different things. Hearing is involuntary and uncontrollable. Listening, however, requires an attention.
Hearing is simply the act of perceiving sound by the ear. If you are not hearing - impaired, hearing simply happens. Listening, however, is something you consciously choose to do. Listening requires concentration so that your brain processes meaning from words and sentences.
When I tell you something, do you listen to me? Probably not. You may well be listening to what 'you' think I am saying. And at the same time, ironically, preparing myself for what I am going to say in return.
The epithet 'God gave us one mouth and two ears' is telling. The art of listening is indeed the most neglected communication skills. Yet parents or teachers who are justifiably focused on developing speaking skills do not teach the art of listening deeply. Listening is something that one is expected to do without any conscious effort.
While often used synonymously, hearing and listening are really two very different things.
Hearing is involuntary and uncontrollable. Listening, however, requires focused attention.
- Step 1. Hearing. The sound enters the eardrums and travels to the brain.
- Step 2. Attending. On receiving the signal, the brain selects the portion to pay attention to.
- Step 3. Comprehension. How does it matter to me? The context and application.
- Step 4. Registering. Storing in the memory for a subsequent recall.