Communicating well consists of two parts: expressing yourself and listening to others. Many people forget the second part. Lots of people are good at talking, but when it’s time to hear the thoughts and feelings of someone else, they fall short. Listening can be very challenging. It comes naturally to very few people, so to improve, you must be more intentional. Why is listening worth the extra effort? Here are ten reasons why it’s important:
#1 Listening builds trust
When you make the effort to listen to someone, they recognize your interest. They can tell that you’re invested in what they’re saying. This makes them more comfortable sharing with you and being open. If you were only half-listening, not making eye contact, or glancing at your phone, the other person won’t want to waste their breath. They won’t trust you to respect their thoughts and feelings.
#2 Listening reduces misunderstandings
Misunderstandings are one of the most common effects of poor communication. When people aren’t listening to each other, it’s very easy to mishear something or misinterpret someone’s meaning. Many times, misunderstandings aren’t a big deal, but some can have major consequences. As an example, if someone isn’t listening when their friend explains they have a certain food allergy, serving them a dish with a dangerous ingredient could be life-threatening.
#3 Listening helps eliminate conflict
Poor listening skills are at the root of a lot of conflicts. Besides sometimes causing misunderstandings, not listening well frustrates people engaged in important conversations. People want to feel respected, which is irrevocably tied to feeling heard. You don’t necessarily need to agree, but simply making the effort to hear another perspective keeps the situation calmer. When everyone feels calm and safe, it’s much easier to work through tense situations without things escalating to conflict.
#4 Listening encourages empathy
Humans are naturally empathetic, but we all have biases and assumptions that come from our upbringing and experiences. When you talk to people who have different backgrounds and experiences, it can be tempting to lean on preconceived notions. Instead, you can commit to listening rather than assuming. When you hear right from a source, you’ll have a deeper understanding of their perspective, which is key to having empathy.
#5 Listening improves romantic relationships
Relationship experts always talk about the importance of listening. Poor communication is behind a lot of the conflict and heartache in romantic relationships. By listening to one another, you create a safe, judgment-free place. This can take a lot of practice as many struggling couples are used to interrupting and talking over each other. A qualified couple’s therapist can recommend listening exercises that make the process more structured.
#6 Listening improves business relationships
If your career involves interacting with others, you know how vital good communication is. Misunderstandings and conflict can derail projects and earn companies bad reputations. By committing to listening better, you can build strong relationships with coworkers and clients. People will feel respected and eager to work with you.
#7 Listening helps deepen your friendships
Listening doesn’t only improve your romantic or business relationships; it deepens your friendships, too. If you’re feeling distant from your old friends or are struggling to connect with new ones, being a better listener could be a game-changer. The benefits of listening – greater trust, fewer misunderstandings, and more empathy – translate well to friendships. It’s worth the effort. Deeper friendships are linked to better physical and mental health!
#8 Listening increases your productivity
Whether you’re at work or in school, listening is very important to your success. People who are good listeners are more likely to retain information, understand what’s being required of them, and ask the right questions. This is a valuable skill in group projects and meetings. Many people think they need to talk a lot to contribute, but listening is arguably more important. If everyone listens to each other, there are fewer misunderstandings. This saves everyone’s time.
#9 Listening helps with learning new languages
When you’re learning a new language, you no doubt practice speaking a lot. Listening is just as important, but it’s often neglected. Why? Many people find it exhausting – and it is – but that’s because it’s exercising your brain. Considering that we spend around 40-50% of our time listening as opposed to talking or writing, hearing the language you want to learn is a big part of mastering it. Audiobooks, music, and movies are good resources.
#10 Listening improves your leadership skills
If you’re wanting to become a better leader, you should become a better listener. Active listening helps you make connections between your team’s ideas, hear different perspectives, and prevent misunderstandings. A good team leader ensures everyone feels respected, which means they all feel heard. If you’ve always thought that good leaders are people who express themselves really well, that’s just half of the picture. They’re also great listeners.