The Lost Art of Listening!
Everyone knows that special person, no matter how many times you say EXACTLY the same thing they just don’t get it. Chances are they don’t get it because they never heard you. It may be:
a. They couldn’t stop talking long enough to hear you.
b. They were planning the next words coming out of their mouth, instead of actually listening.
c. They were trying to politely entertain you but, just plain old had no intention of listening.
Being a good listener is not something you were born with an inherent ability to do, it takes effort and it’s getting tougher. As we become more and more “Connected” we’re actually becoming less and less personally connected.
The chart below shows only 33% of respondents surveyed preferred to talk, less than 1/3 of those who preferred texting or email. If we’re not talking, we can’t be listening.
Leading forms of personal communications among users in the United States as of January 2022.
On the flip-side verbal communication is one of the most commonly used forms of communication in business. I personally have always felt that listening, really listening, when someone is talking has been much more informative then barraging them with questions. If you give a speaker the courtesy of allowing them to speak you may find it very beneficial even if you may not like what they have to say.
How Can You be a Good Listener?
The Harvard Business Review has posted there are three traits of a good listener:
· Not talking when others are speaking
· Letting others know you’re listening through facial expressions and verbal sounds
· Being able to repeat what others have said, practically word-for-word
In the same article they have categorized the “levels” of listening required based on the content being discussed. The article also postulates each level builds on the previous level so if you can’t give someone your undivided attention (no phones or laptops) you cannot possibly be a good listener.
Level 1: The listener creates a safe environment in which difficult, complex, or emotional issues can be discussed.
Level 2: The listener clears away distractions like phones and laptops, focusing attention on the other person and making appropriate eye-contact.
Level 3: The listener seeks to understand the substance of what the other person is saying. They capture ideas, ask questions, and restate issues to confirm that their understanding is correct.
Level 4: The listener observes nonverbal cues, such as facial expressions, perspiration, respiration rates, gestures, posture, and numerous other subtle body language signals. It is estimated that 80% of what we communicate comes from these signals
Level 5: The listener increasingly understands the other person’s emotions and feelings about the topic at hand and identifies and acknowledges them. The listener empathizes with and validates those feelings in a supportive, nonjudgmental way.
Level 6: The listener asks questions that clarify assumptions the other person holds and helps the other person to see the issue in a new light. This could include the listener injecting some thoughts and ideas about the topic that could be useful to the other person. However, good listeners never highjack the conversation so that they or their issues become the subject of the discussion.
So, while the numbers show the vast majority of people appear to be perfectly content communicating with their thumbs personally business still dictates good oral and written communication. Unfortunately, the days of doing business on a handshake are long gone so a clear understanding on both sides is paramount. The caveat is, in my opinion, that a conversation can eliminate countless wasted email exchanges and still is the only way to remove all the ambiguity necessary for business. I was once told a conversation not accurately documented in writing can be a conversation that never took place if it becomes convenient so talk, listen then write.
A global health crisis dictated business adapt to Zoom meetings to survive. But I would guess everyone has had a Zoom experience with that special someone who appeared completely uninterested in anything that was being discussed.
Maybe the solution is as “plain as the nose on your face”, good old-fashioned manners!
If someone is willing to engage and devote the time to have actual human interaction in the form of a conversation, isn’t extending them the courtesy of listening, really listening, the right thing to do?
Aim high, be a Level 6 listener.