“Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice.”    William Shakespeare

There is no communication skill that is more important to your business and relationship success than listening.  If you really want to improve your communication skills and thus your success, read carefully. We’ll start with the answer and then proceed to the questions.  Here’s the answer: LISTENING.

Now, here are the questions. What is the foundation of all communication?  What communication skill were you using long before you were reading, writing or speaking?  Out of the four basic communication skills which one do you use the most? How did you do?  That wasn’t too hard was it?  That was the easiest quiz you ever scored a perfect 100.  We should be off to a great start together.

Now here are a couple of questions that may require you to think.  How much time did you spend learning to read, write and speak clearly during your years of formal education?  How much time did you invest on listening skills?  Your first answer was probably similar to mine…lots.  But what about the second question?

From first grade through high school and into college we are constantly learning and reviewing the skills of reading, writing and speaking.  But how much were you taught about listening?  Your second answer was also probably like mine.  I never had a specific course nor any detailed instruction in listening skills during all of my formal education.  Does that mean listening isn’t important? Does it prove that we don’t need to be taught how to listen?  The answers are obvious.  NO!

Top 10 reasons it's important to listen

How many can you add to this list?   There are easily 20 or more additional reasons that you could add.  Are you starting to see why listening is vital to your personal and professional life?

Research has shown we spend 70-85% of our business day communicating in one form or another.  Out of that time we usually spend 45% listening; 30% speaking; 16% reading and 9% writing.  Almost everyone believes they are good listeners. Unfortunately most of us listen at only 25% of our potential.  Can this be improved?  You bet it can!



One of the biggest challenges with listening is the illusion that it is being accomplished.


The Challenges with Listening

Have you ever had someone act as if they are listening to you?  They may even say they are listening, but you’re never quite sure until they show by their response that they understood what you said.

Here are just a few of the challenges we face in the listening process:


  1. Feeling time pressures
  2. Dealing with outside distractions
  3. Having a tendency to daydream
  4. Controlling emotional hot buttons
  5. Mental or physical fatigue
  6. Listening to a boring, monotone speaker
  7. Having problems with the speaker’s language or speech habits.  And the list goes on.

Here are two more specific to telephone communications: A) Not being able to see the speaker; B) Having a poor connection over the phone.  These and other hurdles can cause us to miss the message in the communication process and therefore lead to misunderstandings.  That’s what we want to avoid.

Are there solutions to these challenges?  Absolutely!  You’re in the right place to learn as you earn and listening can bolster your value in a multitude of ways.

 You can look forward to building your understanding and appreciation of this invaluable skill by watching for a continuation on this topic in future weeks.  Remember, listening is the foundation of all communication.

“Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk.”  Doug Larson

Author: George Hendley
Instructor, Brightwing

George is a speaker, trainer and coach. Learn more about the instructor-led courses Brightwing offers. For a complete list of courses and detailed course outlines call 888-521-2478, ext. 317 or email Jenny.