Garland Valley RN, BSN
How many times have you found your attention wandering when listening to a boring speaker? How many times have you nodded your head in understanding even though you may have missed the main point? There is nothing wrong or irregular in this behavior. It happens to all of us, all the time. We may hear what another person is saying but unless we listen we can’t comprehend what he is saying.
How do we learn to listen? It is not difficult. All that it needs is some discipline and self-training. The first thing is to control your thoughts. You cannot be a good listener if you allow your thoughts to wander. This happens most often when some word or statement made by the speaker triggers your memory, and you drift off. You therefore need to pull your thoughts backs, and refocus. This is not easy, because the mind is a powerhouse. It flies in all directions, many times without your bidding.
A good way to make your mind focus is to train your mind to stay focused for long periods of time. You can do this by listening to a radio or a television or recorded speech. You let the speech run for a fixed time, say five minutes to start with. If your mind loses track of what the speaker is saying, then restart the speech. Do it with different speeches till you can listen without a break for five minutes. Next, increase this time to ten minutes, and repeat the exercise.
You will find that you can concentrate better, and comprehend what the speaker is saying. You now need to repeat the exercise using a video, where the speaker waves his hands or stops for effect or rattles off sentences. You will find that very often these minor things send your mind on its own trip. You need to stop the mind from doing so. In other words, you must not allow yourself to be distracted by the dress, mannerisms or the activity going around the speaker.
You are now ready to listen to people in real life. Your mind will stay focused, and you will find that you are a better listener now. What’s more you will find that better listeners are also better understood. This is because your response will be in keeping with the expectations of the speaker.