Listening is a fundamental communication skill that so many people get wrong so often. To listen to someone fully is to give them your time, attention and respect. It helps build relationships, increase understanding and drive connection.
Listening is simple, right? Just stop what you are doing, avoid distracting thoughts and listen to what they are saying. Simple doesn’t always though, mean easy.
LISTENING DEADLY SINS AND VIRTUES
DEADLY SIN #1
Listening to Speak
This is the type of listening you probably find yourself doing when you think that you are the expert and you have an agenda to push. You want your idea to be accepted and need them to stop talking and start listening! The irony is that your behaviour of trying to dominate the conversation has the opposite effect. Your conversation partner feels silenced and so they likely respond by also trying to dominate the conversation.
Are you listening to speak? You…
- Think about what to say while they are speaking
- Wonder when you can interrupt them to speak
- Are showing the signs of listening such as smiling and nodding in action only
- Stick to a pre-determined fixed conversation plan
Listening to Learn
Listening to learn is about approaching a conversation with an open and exploratory attitude. When listening to learn you follow Stephen Covey’s fifth habit – seek first to understand, then to be understood. You know that you can make the best contribution once you have heard from the other person. While they are speaking you are not formulating your argument, you are processing what they say and making sense of it.
Are you listening to learn? You…
- Paraphrase and reflect back what the other person has said
- Are excited to expand your awareness and knowledge from others
- Ask follow up questions
- Invite opinions that differ from your own
DEADLY SIN #2
Listening with Assumptions
This is where you enter into a conversation with a host of fixed assumptions and beliefs about the person or topic. They may be at the forefront of your mind or they may be subconscious. Assumptions cloud your judgement and prevent you from fully hearing what the other person is telling you because on some level you have already made up your mind.
Are you listening with assumptions? You…
- Pay greater attention when some people speak than others
- Can rarely be convinced by others to change your mind
- Are dismissive of ideas and opinions that don’t support your own
- Judge people before they have fully explained their idea
Listening with Openness
To listen with openness requires you to acknowledge and set aside any pre-conceived assumptions and beliefs that you have. You give everyone a chance to voice their ideas and don’t let your opinions of them cloud your interpretation of what they say. You accept that everyone has value and is worth listening to. To do this requires great self-awareness and understanding of some of the beliefs you have about the world and other people; these might not always be comfortable to admit.
Are you listening with openness? You…
- Seek out the opinions of a wide group of people
- Show the same amount of respect and attention to all
- Give people the benefit of the doubt
- Acknowledge to yourself when your bias is getting in the way
DEADLY SIN #3
Listening with Ego
This is listening that is all about yourself. You are a keen listener when you or your team is been given praise and tend to switch off when you hear critique. You want to appear knowledgeable and make sure others accept your ideas. If your knowledge or expertise is in question or others are disagreeing you may tune out the content of their argument and instead see their comments as a personal attack against which you need to defend. This type of listening might be hard for you to admit, we all have egos and our ego can at times for all of us get in the way of our listening.
Are you listening with ego? You…
- Switch off when you hear something you don’t like or agree with
- Switch to defence mode when you are given feedback rather than trying to understand more
- Look for inputs that support your viewpoint and ignore ones that don’t
- Respond with ‘me too’ stories in response to others contributions
Listening with Empathy
To listen with empathy is to try and connect to the emotion that the other person is experiencing. It is to put yourself in their shoes and see things from their perspective. It is the opposite of listening with ego because it is all about the other person and not about you. When listening with empathy you seek to understand the viewpoint of the other person and connect your own experiences and past emotions to what they are experiencing. This doesn’t mean you always share your experiences, you judge the moment and respond to meet their needs.
Are you listening with empathy? You…
- Ask lots of questions to understand the other persons view point
- Use silence as a way to encourage the other person to speak more
- Seek to understand how they arrived at their viewpoint
- Withhold judgement