From e-mail, to twitter, to facebook, to text messages, to phone calls, and more, there is a constant pull for our attention. The temptation to multi-task with these technologies confronts us every day. For instance, talking on the phone seems like a waste of time if we are not simultaneously engaged in another form of productivity. I know– I do this all the time. I cannot simply stop and listen to someone without feeling there is another pressing matter that needs to be taken care of. I have to be on facebook or sifting through e-mails in order to make the time feel truly constructive.
However, by the end of the conversation I generally sense that I did not fully take in all that “said” person told me. But I got two things done at the same time, so I was industrious, right? Well according to the NewsU course, Lousy Listeners: How to Avoid Being One, I’m wrong.
To be honest, I thought I was a pretty good listener, until I took this course. A lot of the examples of bad listeners bore a surprising resemblance to many of my conversations this week. The truth is, it is so easy to pull out your phone and answer a text while in the middle of a conversation, or appear hurried and only partly interested in what the speaker is saying. You may not think twice about it, as it has become an ingrained habit; but the individual you were speaking with may leave feeling that everything else in your life is more important, or that you really had no interest in hearing what they had to say.
I still remember the impact of a conversation I had three years ago with a man by the name of Bill Johnson. He was one of the speakers at a conference I was attending, and during the break there were people all around him, each wanting a moment of his time. When I finally got my chance, I was amazed at how focused he was on me, as I asked him my question. He did not let the surrounding confusion distract his attention. His answer back to me addressed my question on every level. I realized He had truly listened and understood what I was trying to ask.
In the end, I was blessed both by the answer and the fact that he was so in tune with what I said. I had always respected Bill Johnson, but that day my respect for him doubled because I saw how he cared about people. It was not all words from the front — he was interested in the individual as well. I think anyone going into the field of public relations needs to master the art of listening. I would strongly recommend this NewsU course to someone pursuing a career in PR or journalism, because it really does open your eyes to how you can be a better listener.