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Are you listening, or just hearing?

By on May 2, 2015

A lot of the stress we deal with every single day is due to a condition I call ineffective listening.

How many times have you “heard” the wrong scheduled pick-up time, backed into the wrong door, or mistakenly gone to the incorrect warehouse within an industrial park? Did that road service truck go to the wrong mile marker, leaving you broken down alongside the highway longer than you needed to be? Did your dispatcher assign you a bad load number?

Despite its essential importance, most of us are imperfect listeners. We get distracted easily. We anticipate the message being delivered rather than paying attention to the details. Consequently, we do not gather information well, and that results in errors, misunderstandings, problems, poor decision-making, conflicts and embarrassment.

To be clear, listening and hearing are not the same thing. Hearing is simply perceiving sound by the ear. Listening, on the other hand, is something we consciously choose to do. It requires actively focusing and concentrating on what is being said so that our brains can process meaning from words and sentences.

The importance of effective listening cannot be overemphasized. Should you fail to understand the message being expressed to you, all kinds of problems can occur —arguments, misunderstandings, complications, and too often a waste of time and money.

A final thought from Wilson Mizner, a writer and actor: “A good listener is not only popular everywhere, but after a while, he knows something.”


  1. Make a commitment to be a better listener.
  2. Avoid distractions and listen attentively.
  3. Don’t interrupt the person who is speaking.
  4. Concentrate on the person talking and on what is being said.
  5. Hear the person out, keep an open mind and do not jump to conclusions.
  6. Do not think about what you are going to say next.
  7. Keep your emotions in check, otherwise they can interfere with your listening efficiency.
  8. Every so often, paraphrase what you heard in your own words to check for understanding.
  9. Ask questions to be certain you comprehend the message being conveyed.

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