by Anna Walker

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.
— Stephen R. Covey


Recent studies show that women speak about 20,000 words per day. I believe that number varies based on environment, career, temperament, sociability, etc. However, when we speak to one another, do we really LISTEN? I've learned that true listening is a skill. It involves putting our own thoughts, agendas, judgments, and pre-conceived notions aside. It also requires real focus on the other person with a desire to truly understand not only what they are saying, but also what they are not saying.

Remember the old Charlie Brown cartoon series where adults only spoke in"mwa-mwa-mwa"? Many times when others speak, this is all we are hearing because we are not actively listening. We can't listen and multi-task. Inevitably, we miss key elements of the conversation.

One main area I'm working on is trying not to finish someone else's sentence. I think I know what they are going to say, so I just help them out! Many times, I'm wrong and decide to just be quiet. Listening requires patience. What about the slow talker? sometimes brutal to listen to, but truly listening to them can actually slow me down. And the word whisperer? Those are the ones who want you to lean in to hear every word. Not so easy to listen to with background noise, but also a real test of skill. Lastly, what about the runaway train? able to transition to five topics in about a minute. Listening to this person actually energizes me because it's like a brain game to keep up! 

So this week, I challenge you to test your listening skills to see how well you listen. Be conscious of these five things:

1. Focus on the person speaking.

2. Stay in tune with them regardless of their speaking speed, detail or subject matter.

3. Remain in the moment while they speak.

4. Don't interrupt.

5. Stop what you are doing long enough to really get the gist of what they are saying.

If you truly learn these skills, no one will ever have to ask, are you listening?