Listening is good

Dave Pollard has a nice entry enquiring into conversation, communication, and whether it's really all it's cracked up to be. More seriously, he reviews a few well known, but not often followed, principles for presentations that successfully communicate their content to the listeners. And he includes his own observations about communication and listening.

The post ends with the following question: "What's the one thing (besides improving our listening skills, of course) we could do to improve the quality and value of our conversations?" And this reminded me of a book I've been reading recently: Choosing Civility: The Twenty-five rules of Considerate Conduct, by P.M. Forni. Chapter 4 is titled "Listen" and starts with the following quote.

"Much of the conflict in our lives can be explained by one simple but unhappy fact: we don't really listen to each other." - Michael P. Nichols

The chapter provides three basic components to good listening:

1. Plan your listening. Listen with no other intention than than of listening. ... Silence is, of course, your tool of choice. ...

2. Show that you are listening. You want the other person to know that you are taking the task of listening seriously. Establish eye contact. Give the occasional nod. Interject brief expressions that show that your thoughts are not wandering. ...

3. Be a cooperative listener. ... There's a point where listening becomes a fully collaborative enterprise. Cooperative listening means separating what is important from what is not. It means helping give shape and direction to what the other person says while also trying to understand what he or she is trying to say, not only with words but with body language as well. ...

The chapter ends by supporting what Dave is discussing.

Human beings want someone to listen to them. In the midst of a culture that glorifies indulgent self-expression, we may find it difficult to attend patiently to the words of others. It may not occur to us that when we find the strength to engage in considerate listening we are in fact expressing ourselves. At our best.