What’s Listening Got To Do With It?

Young couple in cafe

Many of us can call up the lyrics and tune of Tina Turner’s song “What’s Love Got to Do With It?”  I have another one for you – “What’s Listening Got To Do With It?”

We all live in relationships – at work and at home; in our vocations and our avocations. Certainly our education influences our ability to be successful – at work and in our personal relationships. Those skills are important, but they are only a portion of the skill set that influences how we excel in our lives/careers/relationships. Our ability to listen (or not) has a huge impact on how we experience life, success, and relationships.

Social skills, emotional intelligence, perceptivity. There are different terms and phrases associated with our ability to navigate in the world of personal relationships. Dr. Albert Mehrabian is Professor Emeritus of Psychology at UCLA. In the 1970’s and 1980’s he did groundbreaking work in the area of personal communication (see here). His studies indicated there are three categories of personal communication, and they have various weightings, as follows:

The words we speak (or write) represent a very small portion of the total communication – compared to our voice, tone, and body language. Three examples:

  1. When my daughter was 8 years old she was excited to come home and tell me about her day. I was listening to her stories while working in the kitchen. The back and forth went like this:  “Dad, you’re not listening.”  “Yes I am dear.”  “Dad, you’re not listening with your eyes.”

  2. Dr. John Gottman is a renowned professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Washington – focusing on relationships. He states the #1 cause of failed marriages is “He/she doesn’t really listen to me.”

  3. Dr. Stephen Covey wrote numerous books, including the best-selling “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” He said “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.  They’re either speaking or preparing to speak.”

What’s Listening Got To Do With It? Turns out it’s got a lot to do with it. “It” being the possibility of experiencing all we’re meant to experience – in our jobs, lives, and relationships. If listening, EQ, social skills, and emotional intelligence have an impact on the quality of our lives let’s give it some attention.  Companies and individuals benefit from learning how to more effectively communicate in their relationships – starting with strengthening our listening muscles.

In the book “Outliers,” Malcolm Gladwell says we need 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. You all have work and personal relationships that matter.  I challenge you to work on the craft of listening. And specifically listening with your whole self – to hear not only the 45% that is heard with your ears, but also the 55% that is heard with your eyes. Now that’s a skill worth mastering.