The Secret of Effective Communication

The Secret of Effective Communication (2) – Listen to Understand

Today, on the secret of Effective Communication, consider how you listen to people. Sometimes in the middle of an argument you hear a party say “you are not listening to me.” You probably want to retort “I’m not deaf, I heard you the first time.” Hearing and listening are sometimes used synonymously but in real life application, they work differently. You hear what the speaker is saying because you are not deaf. Listening goes further; it means hearing intentionally. For instance I may say “Common! You are too loud on the phone; I don’t even need to listen in order to hear everything you say.” This statement draws a line between hearing and listening.

Too often we prefer to be heard than we listen to others. Among other things, I knew listening is real business when I prepared for IELTS test. It is a test of proficiency in the English Language that covers basic forms of communication- reading, writing, speaking and listening. Even if a speaker speaks on a familiar topic, you will fail miserably if you assume you know the content without intentionally listening to understand their own perspective; just as you must read this article with concentration to comprehend what is on my mind.

It requires Patience – Listening is an act that requires patience on the part of the listener. I made a careless blunder in a Bible quiz competition because I assumed I had heard all I needed to, so I jumped into giving an answer. I felt awful when I heard the quiz master say ‘wrong’. It was a simple question I could have answered correctly in my sleep if only I had listened to the end.

How to listen-to-understand

In my previous post, I emphasized the need to speak in the language of the listener if you want them to understand you. Now let us assume they have understood you. It’s time for you to understand them. How can you understand them? By listening. However, a clause comes in from the end of the listener. Even if the speaker speaks in your language, you won’t understand if you do not listen empathetically. In other words, the cycle of listening and speaking goes like this:

  1. Listen (intentionally to understand), then
  2. Speak (in the language they understand)

It is a lot easier said than done, but wisdom demands that you listen before you speak.

Proverbs 18:2

 A fool has no delight in understanding, But in expressing his own heart.

I should know this because I know all the self-discipline I summon within me to hold still when I feel the speaker is saying rubbish. The good thing is this: Each time I overcome the urge to cut them short while they speak, I feel a level of maturity and control. What I do is push myself to view the subject from their own angle.

Stephen Covey gave me a deep understanding on the power of a paradigm in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. With the image of a woman, he explained how two individuals can look at the same thing and arrive at opposite conclusions that are both correct. I look at a picture and see a young, beautiful lady, you look at the same picture and see an old, pathetic woman. Then I’m wondering “is he normal? “How on earth would anyone call this an old woman?” LISTEN to his explanation with an intention to be convinced. Then EXPLAIN your own view in the language they understand. The good thing about listening empathetically is that you are able to see one thing in two ways, rather than limit yourself to one perspective.

Empathic listening engages your ears, eyes and heart. So here are the ways you listen to understand:

  • Pay attention to what they are saying
  • Pay attention to their body languages
  • Pay attention to the emotion they express

Use these three methods to make meaning of what is being said.

Listening to Defend

Raise your hand if you have ever been in a long argument, only to realize at a point that you were actually wrong. Well, my hand is up. It almost feels stupid to admit immediately. You would be better off if you had listened properly initially.

I realize that a lot of times when we claim to be listening, it is not with intent to be convinced but to reply or defend. You don’t want your structure to be altered by theirs. You think it is their structure that should be altered. You keep quiet and let them talk as if you really care but you are simply filtering the statements that you want to counter. Hubby and I have been on this path before and trust me, it’s fruitless. You end up hurting each other more and the issue remains unresolved. Do not start a discussion with intent to win the conversation, except you are marketing your company’s product. Even then, you need to understand their need first.  “I want them to see what I see.” A better mindset would be “help me see what you see, then I show you what I see, and we settle for a reasonable solution.”


 I often hear men exclaim “Women! You can never understand them.” I beg to differ, Sir. I think a more responsible way to put it is “Women! We barely listen to them.” That is you taking responsibility for poor communication.

If you want to be understood, SPEAK in their language. If you want to understand them, LISTEN empathetically. If you want them to listen to you, show an example by listening to them with intent to truly understand. They may never listen to you if they don’t feel understood by you. Maturity can start with you.

Don’t forget to share and follow me on facebook and twitter.

Subscribe to my newsletter for interesting post updates. For prayers or counseling, our partners are just an email away.

Marinate on this until next time and drop your comments please.


Similar Posts

One Comment

Comments are closed.