High 5: 23 February 2018 by Mdm Foo Lee Lian
Listening With Understanding and Empathy
It is a great way to retain learning. Studies have shown that if we simply listen just like in a lecture theatre, we can only retain 5% of what we have heard. But if we listen with understanding and empathy and discuss in group/team, we will be able to retain 50% of all information.
We have heard of the success story of Entrepreneurs like Jack Ma. They all practised the Habits of mind of Persisting with the never to give up attitude. They keep trying to achieve their dreams despite setbacks and repeated failures. However, “persistence” per se/alone is insufficient. If we persist and do what we want continually without listening with empathy and understanding, persistence alone will still lead to failure. This persistence is called stubbornness or unrealistic pursuit. We can continue dreaming and dreaming. We just want to do or make what we like without considering the desire and needs of others. We make things or serve without meeting the needs of others, our consumers or buyers. No one will buy their products or services.
We must know that others want by listening with empathy and understanding i.e. step into their shoes to understand their feelings and perspectives, and to use that to guide our actions. Some psychologists believe that the ability to listen to another person, to empathize with, and to understand their point of view is one of the highest forms of intelligent behaviour. It makes us a better person.
The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand, we only listen to rebut. We usually fail to note views of others and insist on our own and therefore have fewer solutions to problems. The best example now is Project Work or GI, HI and ALP. Many of us like to talk and monopolise the discussion session. Many also like to shoot down views of others and stop them from contributing. If we don’t listen with understanding and empathy, we will demotivate the speakers and not be able to exploit the topic given comprehensively as views from different perspectives will definitely make our deliverables better. Also when we talk, we only say what we already know. We only learn when we listen to others’ points of view. But how?
Any secret of success, I quote from Mr Henry Ford (the man who started the motor car industry in USA) “lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from his angle as well as from your own”. Listening is the beginning of understanding. What does this mean and how does it work?
It is not just Hearing as Hearing is a passive activity — we’re allowing sound waves to penetrate your ear. We still don’t know what the speaker wants, feel or will do next. That’s hearing.
Listening is such a simple act. But most of us are impatient and like to talk more than we listen. We must admit and learn that it’s difficult to listen when we are talking. We are impatient. So constructive empathetic listening takes practice and needs patience. We don’t have to advise, or coach or sound wise. We just have to be willing to be there and listen. Just give others a chance to present their views during GI, HI and any project work.
In listening, we should actively determine meaning to what is heard – we listen with your eyes and ears. Also the power of observation sets in. We must use our eyes and give undivided attention.
To listen fully means to pay close attention to what is being said beneath the words. To continue listening and sustain the sharing by the speaker, we must practise the following behaviour or listening indicators.
1. We must appear interested in what the speaker is saying by having friendly body language that indicates engaged listening with our head turned toward the speaker, nodding, facial expressions that show we are listening and proper posture of leaning forward or sitting upright.
2. We should try to paraphrase to put the speaker’s thoughts into the listener’s own words. For e.g. “so what I am hearing you say is ……..)
3. We should ask probing questions to clarify meaning.
4. And most important of all is not to interrupt the speaker.
So listening with understanding and empathy needs all of us to use our ear, eyes and heart like what Mr Qaleel has shared with you. It is definitely essential to build good relationship with others and build strong teamwork to meet the needs of self and others. So let’s start to listen with understanding and empathy.