Ask anyone that knows me, they will tell you I talk more than I listen. My Ol’ Man has lovingly given me nicknames – “The Lip, The Lipper and The Yapper”.
For some people, ACTIVE LISTENING is a difficult. For others, active listening comes easy and is a quality characteristic that they are known for. Most people reading this have a friend or mentor they can lean on in good times and bad. Active listening is a skill that many simply don’t admit to having.
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For those in Law Enforcement, we must use what the good Lord gave us: two ears and one mouth. Active listening is truly a skill that must be practiced regularly in order to remain proficient.
Active listening has become a lost skill in our social media age. We constantly scan the internet for what we want to see and hear. We then look for a stage to expose ourselves and get the World Wide Web “look at me” to make their online voice heard. I am willing to bet you know a few people who do that, too!
Given all the listening that we cops do, you would think we’d be good at it. WRONG! In fact, most of us are not, and research by Edgar Dale’s in his Cone of Experience suggested that we only remember between 25% – 50% of what we hear. This means that when you talk to your boss, colleagues, or spouse for ten minutes, they pay attention to less than half of the conversation.
For many, this can be enlightening. It exposes when you are receiving directions or being presented with any kind of information, you aren’t hearing the whole message. You hope the important parts are being caught in your 25%, but what if they are not?
Case in point, turn on any major news outlet and you will see a well-dressed panel of men and women talking over each other all day. What are they reporting? Watch who is actively listening? Who knows, because nobody is listening? Nobody gets their point across because the panel is stepping over each other and one is usually talking over the entire panel.
This is NOT news, this is CHAOS!
Any officer will tell you that they are a good listener but, ask their spouse the same question – odds are he or she will tell you differently. Smart officers will tell you that good listening skills are paramount to their job.
I can’t imagine how many people would wish for a better listening spouse, partner or friend. This skill is something that costs nothing, yet is worth its weight in gold! Active listeners are patient and get good, complete information.
Officers need to get information from witnesses, victims, offenders and that “Nosey Nancy Neighbor who sees everything on their block. Many of my mentors have one great characteristic; they are excellent Active Listeners. They not only sense what was going on, they could listen and filter out the noise and listen to the whispers.
When you don’t listen actively, you don’t even know what you are missing.
If you are a poor or sloppy listener, how do you find a solution to your flaw? I’ll use myself as an example. It is really hard at first. Try and erase your current approach to listening. I had to change my game plan, which meant shutting up and asking myself; “am I ready to admit that it’s not working out?”
Start small, like meeting someone for a coffee and letting the other person talk. Call someone you haven’t talked to in a while and ask them how he/she is doing. Actively listen and observe the difference in yourself.
Finally, there are points to apply that come from Jim Smith Jr in his book, “No Excuse Guide to Success,” that will get you started on the path to “Active” listening:
- First, make a vow to yourself to be a better listener. That’s a great start – simple but profound.
- During conversations, listen for the content, meaning, and feeling in what the other person is saying. Stop interrupting!
- Listen to understand, help, see, and support – not to comment, disagree, and find fault.
- Allow moments of silence when the person finishes a thought to allow for further comment from the other person. Don’t jump in!
- Liten for what the other person is not saying.
Refrain from letting your past, your desire to “fix” the problem or your concern get in the way of hearing the entire message.
Active Listening is a skill and it’s one of the vital elements necessary for our peace and mental health.
At the bottom line, it’s all about saving just ONE life.
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Thank you for taking the time to read this message and allowing me to share this touching story with you. I can be contacted with questions or input: EMAIL ME or call me at (386) 763-3000.