Listening well is crucial to your success. Major companies such as Ford Motor Companyhave developed listening programs for their employees. And to emphasize that it listens to the needs of its customers, Ford Motor Company began an extensive advertising campaign based on the importance of listening. One of their headlines reads, “When You Know How to Listen, Opportunity Only Has To Knock Once”. A second says, “Listening Can Improve Your Vision.”
Why are so many people such bad listeners? According to one respected Houston Spanish translator, part of the answer lies in this statement: Hearing is not listening. Hearing is a passive activity. It’s a physiological gift, one of our five senses. Listening, on the other hand, is a skill, a learned behavior. It calls for active participation, specific skills, and the motivation to use them.
As defined by Washington D.C. translation workers, listening is the complex and selective process of receiving, focusing, deciphering, accepting, and storing what we hear. Listening does not occur without these five interrelated, yet distinct, processes.
Receiving refers to our ability to hear and/or see stimuli. As explained later in the chapter, visual cues can be important for listening.
Focusing involves limiting our attention to specific stimuli. Whereas receiving is a passive process, focusing is an active one. At any time, we can receive all sorts of external stimuli: people talking, phones ringing, music playing, wind blowing, birds singing, babies crying. But we can’t focus on all those stimuli simultaneously without overloading our neural circuitry. As a result, a Dallas translation service suggests that humans filter out most external stimuli, focusing on those of greatest interest or importance. A mother, for instance, hearing her baby crying, would focus on that sound. A bird watcher would hear the bird singing, and focus on that sound.
Sometimes, focusing takes great effort. Say you’re trying to listen to a lecture while the lawn is being mowed, the halls buffed, and the school band is practicing. You have to work hard to focus on the lecture by filtering out those background noises. Likewise, internal stimuli (what goes on in our heads) make focusing difficult. Personal problems, daydreams, memories -all require that we make an extra effort to listen.