Are You Really Listening, or Just Waiting to Talk?

When sitting face-to-face in conversation with someone—a friend, child, partner, or work colleague—how frequently are you actually thinking about nothing else other than the words that are coming out of the other person’s mouth? Probably not too often. And you are not alone.

Research shows that only about 10 percent of us listen effectively. We are so distracted by the cacophony of dings and tweets from our smartphones, not to mention our ever-growing to-do lists, that we struggle to focus and listen when people talk to us. And if we’re not distracted by technology, our own thoughts can keep us from listening to another person. We often think that we are listening but we’re actually just considering how to jump in to tell our own story, offer advice, or even make a judgment—in other words, we are not listening to understand, but rather to reply.