August 6th 2015
The Power of Listening
www.arion-group.com Mike Collado
As care providers, industry professionals, or even parents, listening is one of the most important activities that one can engage in.
I have a friend whom I’ve known for years and almost every aspect of his life is constantly in some form of struggle. Whether it’s his job, his family, his friends, or his girlfriend, there is always a problem, a dilemma, or a conflict. After my last conversation with him, I realized why all these things happen only to him and nobody else that I know. He has all these stories and reasons about why everything is in shambles, none of which are ever his fault. The stories are well thought of, and he’s a good talker, but any type of advice that I would try to give him would go in one ear and out the other. I can never get a word in edgeways.
I realized that his unwillingness to listen and the frustration that it leads to for the people around him, is the source of all his problems. How am I so convinced of this notion? It boils down to this: Listening is more important than most people can fathom.
How important? Let’s take a look.
Listening and relationships
Relationship therapists from all over the world will tell you that listening is simply the best gift you can give your partner.
Listening in the workplace
Listening has been identified as one of the top skills employers seek in entry-level employees as well as those being promoted[1-5].
Listening and healthcare
An American study found that when nurses shifted their focus from the task at hand to getting to know the resident, communicating clearly, and thinking creatively, aggression and other behavioral symptoms lessened. One can only perform this methodology by adapting a high level of listening. This type of situation requires an even higher level of listening being that many nursing home residents with dementia can’t describe their pain verbally, leading to behavioral symptoms such as aggression, resisting care, and vocalizations.
In health care settings, the largest indicators of patient satisfaction with physician’s communication skills are immediacy behaviors, empathy, and listening.
In patient physician interviews, 77% of the time the patient’s true reason for visiting is never even stated. This is simply due to the fact that the physician constantly interrupts the patient.
Studies have shown that the most important communication skill in both doctor-nurse relationships and nurse-patient relationships is (you guessed it) listening.
I can go on but I think you get the point. Is it any mystery that people are willing to pay good money for a professional to do little more than just listen to them?
So, why is it so difficult for some people to listen?
First of all, the brain is always thinking. And people can listen at a rate of up to 450 words per minute. However, the average person talks at a rate only of about 125 – 175 words per minute. So this means that people’s brains take in language nearly 3 times more quickly than the pace of it being spoken. This can cause people to get bored, nod off, or not help but think of other things.
But really, most people listen in a form that is from their own perception, whether they know it or not. They may think they already know what the person is getting at or they’re already thinking of how they are going to respond (rebuttal tendency). Perhaps unknowingly, a person attempts to dominate the other with their own knowledge or frantically implicate that they already understanding. The passive listener almost always falls into one of these traps, unaware of the possible great importance that active listening has in that moment.
It was discovered that in a spoken message, 55% of the meaning is translated non-verbally (i.e. body language), 38% is indicated by the tone of voice, while only 7% is conveyed by the words used. This can cause much misunderstanding and mixed signals.
I am of the opinion that if one does not practice a skill, one loses it. Listening is a skill and an important one at that. Some are better at it than others, but everyone is capable of it. If one practices the art of active listening (or even take a listening course!) I am convinced that one will improve their life and the lives around him or her greatly. If care givers and nurses do the same for the ones they care for, it will be an unstoppable win-win combination.
- AICPA (2005). Highlighted Responses from the Association for Accounting marketing survey. Creating the Future Agenda for the Profession—Managing Partner Perspective. Retrieved April 8, 2005, from http://www.aicpa.org/pubs/tpcpa/feb2001/hilight.htm.
- Goby, V.P., & Lewis, J.H. (2000, June). The key role of listening in business: A study of the Singapore insurance industry. Business Communication Quarterly, 63(2), 41-51.
- Hynes, G. E., & Bhatia, V. (1996). Graduate business students’ preferences for the managerial communication course curriculum. Business Communication Quarterly, 59(2), 45-55.
- James, M. (1992). Essential topics and subtopics of business communication: Are we teaching what employers want? Business Education Forum, 46(4), 8-10.
- Maes, J.D., Weldy, T.G., & Icenogle, M.L. (1997). A managerial perspective: Oral communication competency is most important for business students in the workplace. The Journal of Business Communication, 34(1), 67-80.
- The bathing of older adults with dementia, by Joanne Rader, Ann Louise Barrick, Beverly Hoeffer, Philip D Sloane, Darlene Mckenzie, Karen Amann Talerico, and Johanna Uriri Glover. http://www.nursingcenter.com
- Wanzer, M.B., Booth-Butterfield, M., & Gruber. M.K. (2004). Perceptions of health care providers’ communication: Relationships between patient-centered communication and satisfaction. Health Communication, 16(3), 363-384.
- Lee, J. (2000). 10 ways to communicate better with patients. Review of Ophthalmology, 38-42.
- Carver, R.P., Johnson, R.L., & Friedman, H.L. (1970). Factor analysis of the ability to comprehend time-compressed speech. (Final report for the National Institute for Health). Washington, DC: American Institute for Research.