“When you talk you are only repeating what you know; but when you listen, you may learn something new.” –Dalai Lama
Adults spend an average of 70% of their time engaged in some sort of communication. Of this, an average of 45% is spent listening (Adler, R., et al. 2001). I have found in my years of practice that the most important skill a lawyer brings to a problem solving event is the skill of listening.
Listening is the ability to accurately receive and interpret messages in the communication process. Note: listening is not the same as hearing. It involves more than sounds and incorporates verbal and nonverbal messages.
Seth S. Horowitz wrote the following in the November 9, 2012 New York Times Sunday Review:
. . . Hearing, in short, is easy. You and every other vertebrate that hasn’t suffered some genetic, developmental or environmental accident have been doing it for hundreds of millions of years. It’s your life line, your alarm system, your way to escape danger and pass on your genes. But listening, really listening, is hard when potential distractions are leaping into your ears every fifty-thousandth of a second – and pathways in your brain are just waiting to interrupt your focus to warn you of any potential dangers.
Listening is a skill that we’re in danger of losing in a world of digital distraction and information overload. . .
It is of ultimate importance for an attorney and a client to listen to each other. My primary focus when meeting a new client is listening to the client’s story.