We live in the “Information Age;” yet, despite the incredible number of communication platforms available to us, including worldwide interaction on the internet, email, texting, private messaging, social media, and (heaven forbid) using our smartphones to speak to each other, we are as isolated and stressed as ever.
If you research how to improve communication, whether for personal or business reasons, you will learn that listening is the most important tool for effective communication. “The ability to truly pay attention to what someone else is saying improves not only the quality of what we hear and understand, but also the enthusiasm and engagement of the other person involved in the communication.” (LaunchBox365.com)
Even as we incorporate more technology for sharing information into our lives, the ability to be present goes down as our level of digital distraction goes up.
Here are two core reasons the quality of our communication is declining:
- Shortened attention spans – Digital communication takes place in less than the blink of an eye. Scanning information has become far more popular than reading it. This leads us to expect speed and convenience over clarity and depth, stifling the quality of our communication. How many times have you seen someone become upset over a very short text or email message, only to discover they interpreted the message in a way that was never intended?
- Loss of non-verbal cues – If you can’t see the person you’re interacting with, you lose the ability take in and evaluate body language, eye contact, and other non-verbal cues that the experts say accounts for 85% of interpersonal communication. How can you tell what they’re feeling about what you have to say? Emojis don’t really cut it, do they?
A great listener is a present listener. They set aside distractions (digital and otherwise) and pay attention, by being present and responding to verbal and non-verbal cues. They ask open-ended questions that relate to the subject at hand, and show empathy and understanding. Most important, a great listener is so committed to communicating, they let their conversation partner know that they want to hear more.
The internet has changed the world as we know it, don’t lose track of the real price we are paying for it.