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I have been involved with the Boy Scouts of America for about 35 years. It’s a wonderful organization—I would encourage you to find a troop for your sons or grandsons if they are not already active. BSA teaches many essential skills that help children as they grow. I’ve found the basic principles they learn as Scouts carry over well into adulthood.

One of the Scouting merit badges is Communications. It’s required to earn the Eagle Scout rank, and that’s for a good reason. They emphasize conversation, listening, writing, persuasion and public speaking—all things that if mastered, comprise good communication. Honing this valuable skill at a young age can give Scouts a tremendous leg up. That’s because communicating effectively is a key to success at all stages of life, whether it’s interaction with your teacher, your boss, your employees or especially your clients.

Think of the classic vision of a Scout: a young boy helping an elderly lady cross the street. He learns early on the importance of looking both ways. The same is true in communication. It is a two-way street in which the traffic from both directions – speaking and listening – is equally important. You must not only be able to communicate your ideas clearly, but also truly take in what is being said. Listening is a huge part of communication. If something is said and it’s not heard properly, then what have you really accomplished? You’ve probably missed valuable input.

How can communication make us more effective? I think seamlessly and clearly sharing our thoughts, then listening intently in return will take us a long way as business leaders, family members and citizens.

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Merrill Stewart is Founder and President of the Stewart Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham, Ala. Contact him via email.
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