Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Listening with the Ear

Normally in this blog I comment more on the writing and less on the ear, but listening also is essential for effective communication. I was reminded of this yesterday when I had a chance to participate in World Have Your Say, a BBC News discussion program aired at 1 pm each weekday on National Public Radio (WCPN in Cleveland).

WHYS encourages conversations between callers from all over the world. It's fascinating to hear the different voices and viewpoints, but participants - more out of enthusiasm than rudeness - often interrupt.

I consider interruption a plague on good communication, whether it's a radio talk show, a chat among friends or a business meeting - especially a business meeting.

Good listening was the most - perhaps only - helpful principle I ever learned in any personal development seminar. The idea is to let the speaker finish and even to pause before responding. Better yet, restate the point, especially if it's a crucial one, so that you and everyone else understands.

When you interrupt, you not only talk over the rest of a speaker's statement, you probably weren't really listening to the beginning either. You were thinking about what you wanted to say.

That's why it's even more important to be succinct in a conversation. It not only makes your point more understandable, it makes it harder for someone to interrupt!

By the way, yesterday's WHYS program dealt with space exploration. (I argued for unmanned exploration and more international cooperation of the kind we've seen with the space station.)


Not to brag, but I also appeared on Scott Simon's May 24 Weekend Edition Saturday show - sort of. In the Listeners segment Scott read my email re: the airline traveller who was irate over having to sit in the lavatory on a crowded flight.

I pointed out that anyone who has had to squeeze into the middle seat might consider the privvy a first-class accommodation. Plus, he could drink all the beverages he wanted!

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