To Communicate Effectively, you Need to Listen

Posted by martin.parnell |

At the end of my last blog, I indicated that I would follow it up with a piece about how the conditions in your workplace can affect your attitude to work. However, I found some information relating to this week in history that I would like to cover. I will tackle the previous topic at a later date. 

If we look back at the events of this week, in history, apart from England winning the soccer world cup (July 30th.1966) and Prince Charles marrying Lady Diana Spencer (July 29th. 1981), three other significant events occurred. 

Firstly, on July 30th. 1935, the first Penguin book was published. Penguin Books was co-founded by Sir Allen Lane, his brothers Richard and John and Indian politician, V. K. Krishna Menon. At the time, it was quite a revolutionary concept, to produce inexpensive paperbacks and, therefore make high- quality fiction and non-fiction more accessible to the public. The books were sold for sixpence through Woolworths and other high street stores. Penguin's success demonstrated that large audiences existed for serious books. As a consequence, Penguin had a significant impact on public debate in Britain It got more people discussing British politics, the arts, and science.

Secondly, on July 29th. 1914. Theodore Vail, he president of AT&T, succeeded in transmitting his voice across the continental U.S. Later, President Woodrow Wilson spoke to an audience in San Francisco from the White House and is quoted as saying "It appeals to the imagination to speak across the continent." 

Thirdly, on July 29th.1958, the U.S. Congress passed legislation establishing a civilian agency responsible for coordinating America’s activities in space. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has since sponsored space expeditions, both human and mechanical, that have yielded vital information about the solar system and universe. It has also launched numerous earth-orbiting satellites that have been instrumental in everything from weather forecasting to navigation to global communications.

According to Wikipedia, the agency was founded in order to “encourage peaceful applications in space science. Since its establishment, most US space exploration efforts have been led by NASA, including the Apollo Moon landing missions, the Skylab space station, and later the Space Shuttle. 

NASA is supporting the International Space Station and is overseeing the development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, the Space launch System and Commercial Crew Vehicles. The agency is also responsible for the Launch Services program which provides oversight of launch operations and countdown management for unmanned NASA launches.”

On the NASA website, it states “Every NASA mission has a communications system to receive commands and other information sent from Earth to the spacecraft, and to return scientific data from the spacecraft to Earth. The vast majority of deep space missions never return to Earth. Thus, after launch, a spacecraft’s tracking and communications systems is the only means with which to interact with it. In addition, any issues with the spacecraft can only be diagnosed, repaired, or mitigated via the communications system. Without a consistently effective and efficient communications system, a successful mission would be impossible.”

In my role as a communicator, in my professional work as a speaker and author, these events hold particular interest to me as they all relate to aspects of communication. Communication is a key aspect of any business. The ability to communicate well can have a significant effect on the impression you give to employers, employees, colleagues and clients.

In her article, How to Communicate Effectively on The Story Exchange website, January 1, 2019, certified life and career coach, Ann Mehl, writes about the importance of the ability to communicate effectively, in work and life and offers tips on how to develop those skills.

I have selected a number of quotes from her article to share with you here:

“Effective communication is the most important skill in life. But it’s a two-part skill. The first is the ability to clearly articulate our own thoughts and feelings. The second (and more difficult) part is the ability to listen while others do the same.”

“According to some experts, about 50 percent of what is said in the workplace is not what is actually heard.”

“While most of us learned to talk at a young age, very few of us received any actual training in listening. Most of the time we’re too busy formulating our own thoughts and opinions, waiting impatiently for our turn to speak. As a result, there is no real connection happening, just two competing monologues. But really listening to someone, with your whole being, can be transformational.”

“It is impossible to talk and listen well at the same time. Give the other person space and permission to speak without fear of interruption. You’d be amazed at what you’ll hear when you can do this”

 “Most of us listen through a very selective hearing filter, based on our own experiences, bias, frame of reference and autobiography. Our mind is like a busy computer, constantly evaluating what we hear, looking for cues, openings, and connections that bring the conversation back to us. What we know to be true. But truly empathic listening requires that we abandon that filter in order to fully understand another’s perspective. Doesn’t mean that you have to agree with that person, but only that you can deeply see and feel where it is they are coming from. You are no longer listening to evaluate or judge. You are listening to understand.”

“What people say and what they mean are often two very different things. Leaving aside gender, cultural and language differences, there are many obstacles to good communication. The key to uncovering the meaning behind the words is to remain curious and ask the right questions.”

Reading Mehl’s piece, there is one thing, in particular that stands out for me. In these times of ever-increasing use of personal communication devices and social media, it’s even more important that we look at the ways in which we communicate and not lose the skill of listening.

So, do take time to listen to the people you interact with, whether at home or in the workplace, it’s a valuable skill and one which we should continue to develop, unless we lose it altogether.

About the Author

Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and his final book in the Marathon Trilogy, THE SECRET MARATHON-Empowering women and girls in Afghanistan through sport, was released on October 30th 2018. He speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Your Full Potential” and has written for, or been covered by CNNBBCCBCThe Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. In 2016 he ran the Marathon of Afghanistan in support of Afghan women and girls running for equality. Find out more about Martin at  and see what he can do for you in the long run.

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