Just a couple of days ago, my wife of over 41 years responded with a hand on her hip and with a disgusted look (because you know we have been here before) when I innocently asked a question. Her quick response was, ”I told you….”
So why didn’t I listen (again)?
Does this sound familiar to you? Do you have room to become a more effective listener?
In a casual conversation you may not be particularly concerned about what you are saying or what you are hearing.
Making Your Point
But when the conversation relates to resolving some issue or making a decision, how would you compare the effort you devote to making your points to the effort expended listening to others’ points of view?
Do you strain to hear each point being made so you fully understand its implications?
Or do you concentrate on how best to make your points, how to identify the weaknesses in positions taken by others, and how to counter their points with your own?
Talk vs. Listen
Would you rather talk because…
- You would be in control with your own agenda?
- You want to be the center of attention?
Or do you genuinely listen and search objectively for the truth and an opportunity to increase mutual understanding?
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” – Stephen Covey
Most of us are at least a little careless about trying to understand the points others are trying to convey.
And when we interrupt, it’s because we are trying to convince others of our point of view.
When we decide to respond when another person is talking, we stop listening because…
- We don’t want to forget what we want to say.
- We start thinking of ways to present our point of view.
“People are usually more firmly convinced that their opinions are precious than that they are true.” – George Santayana
Lopsided Distribution of Power
With the lopsided distribution of power in a leader and employee relationship, the leader has a special responsibility to listen.
- As the leader, how patient are you with your employees, and how hard do you try to understand what they are trying to tell you?
- To what extent do you encourage your employees to share their views with you. This is especially important on those matters when their views are different from yours.
- Rather than listening, do you find it easier and more convenient to simply cut them off, snap a quick decision or instruction to them, and get on with your other endeavors?
Insight: The most important step in improving your listening skills is to adjust your basic attitude during the communications and to test your motives for listening or not listening.
Every person can effectively listen if they understand the five levels of listening and seek to listen at the highest level!
“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” – Stephen Covey
In Stephen Covey’s best-selling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he shared the following five levels of listening.
People listen at the first four levels often out of self-motives.
Practicing the fifth level of listening, people are really trying to discover and understand what the other person is saying and feeling from the other person’s point of view.
The lowest level of listening is simply making no effort to listen.
Pretend listening happens when you merely make others believe or give the appearance that you are listening. Like when you are trying to mulit-task. “Yeah. Uh-huh. Right.”
Selective listening is characterized by hearing only the parts of the conversation that interest you. You may do this when listening to the chatter of a preschool child.
Attentive listening focuses on the words that are being said, and comparing that to your own experiences.
But very few people ever practice the fifth level, the highest form of listening…
Empathetic listening requires listening and responding with both the heart (motive) and the mind to understand the speaker’s words, intent and feelings. The essence is not that you agree with someone. It’s that you fully, deeply, understand that person, emotionally as well as intellectually.
Is there room for improvement when it comes to your listening skills?
How wonderful the world might be if everyone shifted to higher levels of listening with the desire for mutual understanding – even when their opinions differ.
By the way immediately after my wife said, “I told you….”, she realized she actually did not tell me, but she had intended to!
Are you ready to improve your listening skills? Where could make your first improvement? Could you share your comments <here> and share this blog post with a friend or co-worker?