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There are at least two major factors that help to determine whether we will be effective or ineffective listeners. One is the degree to which we care about listening. The other is the extent to which our minds are open and flexible.
Part of listening is making the effort to listen. Good listening involves trying hard to understand what the other person is saying. It is an active process in which we watch the other person for body language cues and in which we listen to their voices for clues from how they speak. It is a process in which we try to think about what they might be thinking so as to understand what subtexts might be present beneath the actual words that they are saying. All of this takes effort. If we are willing to make that effort, we will be much more effective at listening than if we are not willing to do so.
A second part of listening is the ability to put ourself in the other person’s mind. As mentioned in the last paragraph, we have to listen for the unspoken messages that the other person is trying to send. If we are mentally flexible and if we are able to put ourselves in other people’s shoes, we are more likely to be able to hear those unspoken messages. Thus, the extent to which we have an open and flexible mind can be important in determining how effectively we listen.
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