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Roger’s Tips: Disciplined listening

Roger Eichelberger

You’ve probably read or heard this before: “The best thing you can do is to become a good listener.” Larry J. Bailey, the author of the book called “Working: Learning a Living,” points to “poor listening costs employers billions of dollars every year.”

In relation to the statement by Bailey just read about, poor listening could cost a person a promotion, losing business for an employer, missing an opportunity, causing an accident, losing a job or messing up by missing an invitation and more.

Even God wants us to answer him when he speaks to us, perhaps in a dream or otherwise. In the book of Revelation, Chapters 2 and 3, Jesus says the following statement with the same words seven times, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says ...” God wants to communicate with us. All through the Bible, God spoke to chosen people because he knew they had trained their minds to hear his word. Just an afterthought, many didn’t remember it very long and God had to get their attention in other manners.

So it’s much more than listening. We must have an attitude or a mind set of having the desire to understand how and what is being communicated to us. As I heard on the news, when some people speak, the listener may receive a completely different message versus the people who both watch and listen to the person speaking. If you think about it, combining the non-verbal and verbal communication by a person or by the electronic media, is incredible.

“The average mind can handle about 600-800 words per minute.” I wonder how much more that number would increase if we disciplined our mind to handle both the audio voice and non-verbal communication comfortably at the same time? It would probably be mind-boggling to know the answer for that question!

Saying a bit about non-verbal communication. The following statement was shared by Dr. June Alliman Yoder, a communications and preaching professor, in a seminar attended by my wife: “According to communication research, oral communication is 7 percent vocabulary, and 93 percent other non-verbals, such as facial expression, eyes, posture, tone of voice ...”

The spoken word can be retained best if you concentrate fully on the person speaking by both watching and listening as the mind processes what it sees and hears. Associate things you hear with thoughts of your own, using association for more understanding.

I knew an accomplished business friend and lecturer, Murray Bandy, who shared with me during our first visit together that he used a method of association so he would not forget another person’s name. He said, “My name is Murray Bandy and my red hair looks like a rooster. Now you won’t forget my name” — and I didn’t.

Admittedly, people have and use different sending and receiving systems for both listening and watching. Science tells us that we’ll experience more retention if we use as many of our sensory mechanisms as possible at the same time, such as hearing, writing, saying it aloud, reading, smelling, touching, seeing a picture, and through association.

Listen and watch for hidden messages! Do the non-verbal actions say the same as what you’re hearing? Sometimes, the non-verbal actions do not play out with the same meaning as the words being spoken. When listening to someone, don’t let the words spoken verbally mislead you. Is there double-talk going on? Again, watch to see if the verbal and non-verbal communication match with what you are hearing. If you’re listening to a speech, invariably the person speaking may share the real heart of the matter toward the end of the talk. If you are truly listening and giving yourself the benefit of hearing and seeing everything possible, then you will receive the most from the message.

In conclusion, paying attention to both verbal and non-verbal language from someone, or situations is paramount. Prepare to pick up on the non-verbal message(s) simultaneously while watching and/or listening. This gives the full implications of the communication.

— From the book “JOB and LIFE OPPORTUNITIE$: MOVING UP” by Roger Eichelberger, of Hesston, which can be purchased at Faith & Life Bookstore.