talking to each other now
Illustrative purposes Image Credit: Nino Jose Heredia/©Gulf News

What you need to know:

  • Do you listen to understand or to refute?
  • Readers discuss how listening is harder than speaking.

How frustrating is it when one is trying to make a point and the listener keeps interrupting with their opinion? The ability to let someone speak without cutting them off sometimes comes after practice to some. Why is it difficult for people to do so and what makes a good listener? Gulf News readers debate.

Listen to understand

Listening is harder than speaking

When it comes to the communication acts of listening and speaking, we tend to think that speaking is active while listening is passive. It is actually the other way around, speaking is simply thinking out loud, while listening is hard work, requiring us to stay attentive. It is easy for us to be fixated on the message we want to deliver, making us wait for a pause where we can inject our point. When this happens, though, we don’t hear what is being said and the communication opportunity of the moment is lost.

One of the reasons it is so challenging to listen is that most of us have an associative mind. “Oh, wow, you’ve studied at that school in London, maybe you know my friend Ruth, who also went there!” The thing is, while I’m waiting to explore whether my speaker knows Ruth, I’m missing out on what she is saying. Something far more important might come up. A real conversation is a journey we make together with someone else, there’s no knowing where the topics will lead.

A real conversation is a journey we make together with someone else...

- Kim Annette Page

From Ms Kim Annette Page
Communication Expert and author based in Dubai

Interpret social cues

Technology has made conversations easier

A good listener is one that is able to swiftly move through conversations and comprehend substantial information.

Impatience is usually what kills a conversation. Some rush to express themselves, afraid that their opinions will go unheard. However, if more people took time to speak in a considerate manner, our opinions would be better heard and appreciated.

Although I am not a social butterfly, it becomes difficult to initiate conversations sometimes. If I feel that the speakers will not appreciate my words, the talk will probably not be fruitful. People who are not great with social cues, might not know when to speak and when not to, so I like giving them the benefit of doubt.

I certainly agree that people nowadays must focus more on understanding content rather than on a reply, which will be irrelevant if they haven’t understood what they’ve heard.

Today, technology has taken over all aspects of our lives, even conversations. Undoubtedly, it has made communications easier in some ways and harder in others. For example, while texting each person can reply when they feel like without necessarily ‘interrupting’ each other.

From Ms Maryam Islam Muhammad
Student based in Dubai

Good listeners

People need to adopt better communication skills

A good listener is someone that lets another person complete their point without unnecessarily interrupting them to comment about the conversation every now and then, disrupting the flow of the conversation.

However, many people do not seem to do so. From what I’ve observed, some people can be extremely impatient and feel like they need drop a comment right away to refute arguments thrown at them or so that they don’t forget their points later on.

The constant desire to prove you are right can be stemming from an inferiority complex and people need to start to adopt better communication strategies. People should start listening to understand not to respond.

Next time you speak to someone, even if they are making an argument that is against yours, sit back and listen. Try to understand their side of the story without mentality jumping to calculate ways of refuting it. It is surprising how much one can learn. IT can help one to see thing’s from a different perspective and sometimes even helps make their own arguments stronger.

From Mr Ali Khalid
Dubai resident

Poll results
Gulf News asked: Do you listen to...
Understand: 84%
Respond or refute: 16%

Have your say: What makes a good listener?