We only think we are good at Listening

In the age of communication there is a lot of talking going on. Without listening, is it really communication or is it just noise?

A whole host of competencies rely on listening skills. If you have any desire to communicate to be understood, to convince anyone to do anything, to be a leader, a negotiator, if you want to develop trust with those who work with or those you lead, if you want to have any chance at connecting with others – listening is at the heart of it.

Why aren’t we better at listening?

The biggest barrier to being good at listening is you probably don’t think you need to work on it. In a multitude of studies conducted with thousands of subjects, nearly all respondents felt they communicated as effectively or more effectively than their co-workers.

Most people feel that listening is important. It’s just that they feel they are good enough at it already. Coupled with the fact that according to research the average person only listens with 25% efficiency, there is a huge gap here in skill that certainly is contributing to a lot of misunderstanding, conflict, and unneeded strife.

Listening is more than hearing. Hearing is a function, it is passive. Listening is about your desire to understand another’s message and point of view.

Spotlight on the speaker

Typically, when someone else is speaking, even when we are doing a good job of paying attention, we are still thinking about what they are saying that we agree with. We are thinking from our perspective, from our vantage point, and with our own self interest.

Put the spotlight on them and all your effort on trying to understand what they are trying to communicate. Your focus, makes all the difference.

Top 3 Barriers to Effective Listening

  • Distractions
    • We get distracted by our outside world and our inner world. -Thoughts, thoughts, thoughts are louder than the loudest noises and distractions outside. Be mindful to change your environment so that you can hear and be present for the conversation. Changing your mind and maintaining self control over mental distractions will take practice. 
  • Attachments to personal beliefs and values
    • Reduce or eliminate strong attachments to your point of view.
  • Misinterpretation 
    • Thinking you’ve got it when you don’t. It is common to misinterpret what we hear when we are listening to someone else. Our brain is looking for what is familiar, what fits into our perspective, and our experience. Mix in a dose of preconceived ideas and it’s easy to get the wrong idea of what we are being told.  

Active listening is about trying to get in the speakers head, to truly understand and grasp the meaning behind the others persons words. – the fully intended meaning from the speakers communication.

There is so much noise going on in our minds. This makes it difficult to listen to others. We have to find a way to clear our minds. Take a moment, to let go, and neutralize feelings so that we can bring our focus to where it needs to be.

5 Primers for Active Listening

  • Focus -Pay Attention- Show genuine interest
  • Show – Watch your body language – Look at who’s talking
  • Defer Judgement -SSHHH- Do not talk
  • Seek Clarity – Ask Questions
  • Understand – Ensure you understand before moving on

Seeking Clarity and Understanding are the reflective part of active listening.

Examples of Reflective Listening Phrases

  • It seems like…?
  • It sounds like….?
  • So you feel that…?
  • Would it be accurate to say….?
  • What I’m hearing is…?
  • What did you mean when you said?
  • You seem to be saying…?
  • You are…?

Practice Active and Reflective Listening

It takes practice to get good at active listening.

Don’t let the technique go wrong by not being empathetic and authentic. Be sincere in your desire to listen and to help better understand their point of view. We all feel it when it is inauthentic and the paraphrasing statements and clarifying questions sound wrote and forced.

It’s important to be observant. To be able to fill in the blank with what you think is really going on. This shows that you are listening, observing, that you care enough to notice. It also allows them to clarify. This way you are reducing misunderstanding.

We are looking to be heard. Some are shouting from the rooftops to be heard and to connect with others.

If you are more willing to listen to someone else, they will be more willing to listen to you. Otherwise, it is just two people making noise towards one another.

Set yourself apart from the pack by developing and mastering your listening skills. There is a lot of noise out there. Care enough about others that you are actually communicating. Be the one who actually understands what others are trying to say. It will open up a whole new world when you tune out the noise and hear the beauty in the message. 

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