How To Listen More

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When You Listen More, You Can Think Better And Win Inevitable Arguments.

Many people have very poor communication habits, that’s not the sad part – what is really sad is that they are unaware of that they have these poor communication habits. Poor communication generally happens when there is failure of a message by a sender or originator to reach or be understood by the receiver or recipient as evidenced by the feedback received.

 Specifically, many people do not know that listening is a very important skill in communication; this listening isn’t listening to respond but to understand. The absence of this comprehension had contributed significantly to the breakdown in value exchange, social order and peaceful co-existence.

In today’s world, there is an increasing premium on critical thinking which enables enlightened conversations, a heightened ability to identify bias and error, while better interrogating facts and evidence for decision-making. It thrives on the desire for improved outcomes, the quest for higher productivity and ultimately transformation of systems. Thinking better is critical to success in a world that is evolving at breakneck speed and has disruption as the order of its day. The new normal is really a metaphor for new ways of thinking as a response to changes – critical thinking is key to adaptation.

Both listening and thinking become important when put in the context of winning arguments because in the marketplace of ideas, arguments are won by superior submissions. People will only concede to your propositions it carries a superior payload of value and is the most desired solution to the stakeholders. This understanding should better position you to double down on how to listen more, think better and win inevitable arguments.

  1. Be Open To Other Perspectives

One of the traits that make people poor listeners is that they have a parochial mind-set instead of a cosmopolitan worldview. Once the other person makes a submission that they disagree with or can’t grasp – they shut down. Understand that it would be impossible for everyone to agree with you, this is simply because human beings by our very nature are heterogeneous; whether in ideologies, physique, idiosyncrasies and so on – we are so diverse that no two people have the same fingerprints! So chances are that people will disagree with you more than they agree with you – that’s why active listening is a skill, you have to unlearn the way you receive information.

Don’t just keep an awkward silence or worse, interrupt the speaker – you can use non-verbal but visual actions like nodding your head or maintaining eye contact to show that you’re following the other person’s thoughts. It doesn’t mean that you have to agree but you must have the discipline to allow him or her conclude his or her thoughts before presenting your counter-arguments. Sometimes, you may be surprised that both of you might be saying the same thing but in different words – this can save you from engaging in needless arguments. 

  1. Ask Questions

Another technique you can use in improving your listening skills is learning how to ask salient questions. When you’re having a conversation with someone and you hear something you are not sure you heard correctly or you disagree with – you can further probe that submission. Sometimes our bias are responsible for how we comprehend, for example when someone says something to you – what your mind filters is what you expected them to say or what you choose to hear and not necessarily what he or she actually said. Another reason why you should ask questions is because there might be environmental factors or distractions that interrupt the flow of communication. Other times it’s the inability of the speaker to succinctly express himself or herself.

This is because you want to respond to what such people really mean not necessarily what they may have said. Asking questions bring greater clarity in communication, when you get a refrain from the speaker, it may come in a more coherent form than the first response. For example, you can ask questions like, “could you please repeated that?”, “Are you saying that XYZ?”, “In order words, you’re saying that ABC?” etc. These questions should not be used indiscriminately but when the speaker appears to contradict his or her earlier submissions or when you need to clarify.

  1. Read More

It is said that just as food is fuel for the body, book is fuel for the soul. One of the best ways to improve your cognitive capacity is to read well-written books. Books are simply the documented thoughts of an author, most of our thinking-patterns were influenced by the books we read. Books of all kinds expose you to the minds of other people, other worldviews and other perspectives. The idea is not for you to agree with everything you read but to identify inductive and deductive methods that those authors used in arriving at their conclusions so you can do the same for yourself. Reading opens you up to new vistas of thoughts and helps you derive your own ideology.

This is why two of the most important subjects that pupils are taught in primary school in Nigeria are Quantitative Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning. This is because they form the foundation of alpha-numeric comprehension, not because those subjects in themselves will have real-life applications. By engaging in reading often, you are developing your mental capacity and boosting your potential of being a polymath. It is an activity that develops your brain’s interconnectivity.

  1. Maintain Physical Fitness

Researchers have established a proven nexus between physical fitness and an improved mental health, same as between a healthy diet and improved cognitive functions. It is difficult for most people to think properly because of stress, their bodies are always in some form of duress. The human brain is an organ just like others in your body that depend on an adequate and healthy amount of blood and nutrients to function effectively. A hungry person has a higher propensity to make errors in judgement not because he or she is unintelligent but because the body and the brain have been starved of adequate fuel to carry out its basic cognitive functions.

To maintain physical fitness, you must invest in a good diet, engage often in physical exercises and have sufficient rest. So you must be willing to invest the required resources and time to achieve the desired outcomes. Most people eat a lot but because their staple is mostly carbohydrates, they don’t get the full complements of healthy meals. The same applies to rest, this is different from sleep – it is the process of allowing your brain and body to recharge, renew and rejuvenate itself. Leisure and sporting activities have been known to produce these effects.

  1. Do Your Research

When it comes to winning arguments, you have to learn how to raise the quality of your thoughts not the decibel of your voice. Simply put, if you want to sway arguments your way, you must put in the work and come up with submissions that are as incontrovertible as it can be. Most times, arguments are made on the level of available information, your job is to go the extra mile and develop solutions that are from superior levels. When people don’t know any better, they opt for the possibilities that they can grasp. 

At some point, most people believed that the world was flat. Even sailors were afraid of going beyond certain nautical miles on the high seas. Until powerful thought leaders like Galileo promoted the idea of a heliocentric solar system which amongst other things included that the earth was spherical. He was put on trial for holding such exotic opinion but the argument of the earth being flat eventually submitted to his superior argument. Same thing applied to aeronautics, the Wright Brothers promoted the idea that it was a superior law to that of gravity. Today, air travel is routine and almost taken for granted.

  1. Learn to Reach Compromise & Consensus

Whilst winning arguments is the goal, most times it’s not productive to be overly insistent on it. Reaching a compromise is a sign of maturity not weakness. You must identify the thrust of your objectives and values; determine which ones are negotiable and which ones are non-negotiable. Sometimes, you have to lose a battle to win a war, it’s like playing chess in real life situations. Consensus is a point where both parties have agreed to shift grounds from their original positions and have made a mutually beneficial decision.

In fact, I believe that the best way to win an argument is to avoid it.

For over two decades in Nigeria, there had been clamour for the passage of the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB). The impasse of the political blocs and interests from the concerned communities had stalled its passage into law. The 9th Assembly after holding high-level consultations with different players put forward a 1Host Community Trust Fund (3% of annual operating expenditure in prior year) as opposed to the initial 10% requested by the host communities. At the end of the day, President Buhari signed the historic bill into at the review rate. Whilst some analysts argue that it could have been higher, they also concede that it’s better than nothing.


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