In May 2013, Jason Headly released his video clip "This is not about the nail". Since then, he has received more than 19 million views. The message is clear "Do not try to fix it, I just need you to listen."
Active listening is an essential element of effective communication. In this parody, the woman clearly has a nail in the head, which explains to a large extent his concern. Sometimes what the person wants to convey is clear to the listener. So much so that the listener wants to inform the sender. Unfortunately, the apparent cause is less important than active listening. Maybe the person just needs to be heard. They do not want the listener to solve the problem. They only want to be heard!
Although this video is an exchange between a man and a woman, it is the same for all genres. Some people just need to be heard. Listening to understand is difficult, but easy. Our brain can only really treat one thing at a time. We might think that we can listen and formulate an answer; but just like the processing power of a computer, things are slowing down. If the listener treats his answer instead of actually listening, the reception of the entire message is compromised. Therefore, listen, then formulate your answer. Be present and attentive to the message of the sender.
Feedback is equally important for the communication cycle. The gentleman in the video tried to give the woman comments. She was so determined to get her message across that she did not stop thinking that there was maybe one reason he wanted to talk. He had good information, but she was not in a space to hear it. The sender and the recipient exchanged their communication roles and neither was effective.
Communicating effectively requires a balance of words and active listening from all participants. Respect is at the heart of effective communication. If each of us truly respects ourselves, we would make a concerted effort to seek understanding through active listening and quality feedback.
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In Forbes magazine, Dianne Schilling provides "10 Steps to Effective Listening."
- Face the enclosure and maintain eye contact,
- Be attentive, but relaxed.
- Keep an open mind.
- Listen to the words and try to imagine what the speaker is saying.
- Do not interrupt or impose your "solutions".
- Wait for the speaker to pause to ask clarification questions.
- Ask questions to ensure understanding.
- Try to feel what the speaker feels.
- Give the speaker regular comments.
- Pay attention to what is not says to non-verbal cues.
- Keep these 10 items in memory.
- Share them with your team.
- Practice. Practice. Practice.
Pam McDonald is a writer and editor for BLM Wildland Fire Training and Workforce Development and a member of the NWCG Leadership subcommittee. The expressions are those of the author.