Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

Listening is the key to all communication. The flow of a conversation creates an energy field between people. Knowing what to say and how to present your views and your questions about any given topic is crucial. Choosing the words that will build a bridge between you and the others present is a skill that begs development. One must be conscious of the tone of voice, the inflection of the voice, eye-contact, the use of positively based sentence structure, timing, loudness or softness of the voice and other aspects, as well.

Listening, however, is a more difficult skill to accomplish. We are all pretty lousy listeners. Typically, we are managed by our own experiences. We filter our thoughts and opinions through our own lenses. In any conversation, while the other person is presenting their views, opinions or challenges, we are thinking our own thoughts about the topic as seen by us and by all the other experiences we have had in our own lives. In essence, while the speaker is speaking, we are very busy thinking and we are not absolutely focused on what is being said.

Remember the children's game, Telephone, of telling one person a story and asking them to pass it along to another person? As the story gets passed from one participant to another, it changes in fairly dramatic ways. When the last person repeats the story to the group, it has distortions, new dimensions that were not part of the original story, and the events are organized differently. Too often that process takes place in adult conversation, but nobody is aware that it has happened. The message gets repeated as if it is true and there is a breakdown in the ability to relate in meaningful ways. People feel misunderstood or not heard. Rifts appear in the bridge between people because anger, resentments or fear show up. Let's face it, human communication is complicated. Very complicated.

Listening well is the anecdote to communication difficulties. Listening well requires you to put aside anything that might be distracting. One cannot listen well if one is daydreaming, fiddling with objects on their desks, writing notes, watching television or any other screen. One cannot listen well if one is distracted by the constant chatter in their head. Calming your own mind is a necessary component of being able to listen.

Listening is more important to good communication than talking. So practice a little silence.

With a smile,

Diane Strausser