Listener spotlight: Ralph Nichols
After 40 years of dedication to the field of listening, Dr. Nichols passed away in 2006, but not before being inducted into the International Listening Association’s Hall of Fame. In fact, the ILA — an organization created to promote the study, development and teaching of listening — has stated that they would not be where they are today, were it not for Dr. Nichols. They have officially recognized him as “the Father of the Field of Listening.”
As a high school speech teacher and debate coach, Dr. Ralph Nichols’ early career was focused on speaking. But when he discovered that his students’ persuasive skills depended heavily on their ability to listen, his professional focus shifted from the sending of oral communication to the receiving of it. This discovery is one that we at Ken Garff can relate to. It is at the core of how we operate. We realize that listening is much more valuable than speaking. After Dr. Nichols came to this realization, he was lead to pursue a career at the University level, where he pioneered extensive seminal research, educational programs and countless professional articles related to the skill of listening.
Listening, however, was more than just a skill to Dr. Nichols; he believed it to be a necessity. “The most basic of all human needs,” he once said, “is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” Dr. Nichols saw the act of listening as the path to acceptance and cooperation, and today — with ongoing conflict around the world — this philosophy is more important than ever.