Does Anyone Listen Anymore?

*click above to see larger image of  “Active Listening” cartoon

Ever write a blog post and get no comments?  Or send out a Twitter and get no answer to your question? Or have you attended a class/seminar/conference and hear the speaker ask for feedback/questions/input, only to have the audience sit quiet as field mice?

How about this.  Do you read blog posts or just skim them?  To you engage people in conversation while really far away thinking of the ten things you were supposed to have done ten minutes ago?  Do you listen, do people listen to you?

In this new media world, the paradigm of listening has changed.  In the past, listening was hearing what people had to say and seeking to understand what they said.  Today “listening” can be characterized as following Twitter, reading Facebook updates, setting Google alerts for topics that interest you in addition to our actual conversations.

I know someone who is a great multi-tasker.  This person can text, email, read websites, talk on the speaker phone and open the mail all at once.  But at times this person does not catch what the text is saying, the point of the website,  or remember the take aways from the phone call.  Unfortunately this person is me.

For someone who has stood up before class after class (in my corporate training days) teaching people the importance of listening I often fail as bad as the people I notice that are not listening.  The issue is this (for all of us), in a world that seems to move faster and faster the need for us to listen is greater and greater.  We simply do not have time not to listen.

Listening involves hearing (whether it is in print or in person) what the sender is saying, understanding the message and then interpreting the message (is it accurate?,  does it make sense?, is it believable?, etc…).  Listening challenges occur right at the front of the process, hearing.

Want to be more effective?  Want to get more done?  Want to communicate better?  Then work hard at being a good listener (let me tell you from experience, good listeners are hard to come by).   Show me an extremely successful person with the tag “great people skills” and I will guarantee, they are good at listening.

Want to be a better listener?  Here are some tips to help you;

  • Pay attention to the person who is speaking.
  • Focus.  Do not try to guess what the person is going to say next or let your mind wander.  Focus on the message.
  • Let the speaker finish.  Most people end what they are saying with “the point” or a summary, if you cut them off you may not have full understanding.
  • Resist the urge to develop a response while the speaker is talking.  Finish listening.  Your response will be better.
  • Listen for the main idea.  What is the point of the message?
  • Ask questions to gain understanding (after the speaker is finished).
  • Give feedback once you fully understand.

Finding a good listener is so rare that you will stand out from the crowd and probably realize many good side benefits along the way by being one.

5 Responses

  1. Tom Gilbert Says:


    Excellent post. I’m guilty of trying to do too much too fast, all in an attempt to be more productive and better… but better at what? We need to find the balance. We need quiet time, contemplation and meditation. Real conversations.

    And still also harness the new technology and media interaction that helps us grow, without getting too distracted or disjointed.

  2. JVonD Says:

    Cool word press page dude!

  3. Matt Churchill Says:

    hey mark, great points!

    There is so much information out there that we’re all trying to assimilate as much as possibly quicker than we actually can so we end up missing half of the quality content that we were initially looking to find in the first place.

    We need to start being more selective with what we’re reading and then we’ll be able to read it better.

  4. Marc Wong Says:

    Good points. Yes, good listeners are hard to come by indeed. I’ve written up some do’s and don’ts of listening which I hope explains why listening is such a difficult yet worthy skil:

  5. Debra Says:

    I am a good listener, maybe too good. I find that many of my conversations are so dominated by the other person, that I have actually withdrawn from certain people. I think people just want someone to listen to them and when they find someone that will not be rude and interupt, they will chew your ear off. I find many people self-centered. Many times while people are rambling on, I will fantasize myself putting a gun to my head. Sometimes I will count the actual words I say while they ramble on. Sadly, most of these people are uninteresting. I love the ones that start to make a point and then they go off on about 10 tangents and they never make their point. When they are done rattling, I always bring them back to their original point. I guess I just have to speak up and say, can I get a word in? Sorry for the ramble, I am as bad as the wind bags I deal with.

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