Posted November 1, 2010on:
When I ask my clients, “How do you listen?” the response is all too often, “With my ears!” While that’s part of the process, other vital elements are missing.
To be a really effective listener you have to pay attention to more than just the words, Effective listening (also known as Active Listening), requires empathy and compassion. Listening for content as well as context is more than just hearing the words, you need to be 100% present with one another and whilst listening you notice body language, skin tone changes, the use of words and their content as well as the tone of voice. It means that you have listened so well that, if necessary, you could repeat what you have just heard, accurately and in sequence. Most arguments are the result of faulty listening.
So what are some of the barriers to listening? Here are a few suggestions, see which ones you identify with:
Judgements: It is said that we take 30 seconds to decide whether we like someone or not. If we don’t like them, we are far less likely to hear what they have to say as we’ll be busy making a list of faults instead.
Second-guessing: “Oh yes, I know what they are talking about so I don’t have to listen fully. I’ll just wait until they finish speaking and come up with what I want to say or alternatively, I might not wait until they finish and I’ll jump in”
Hijacking: This happens when you hear something that you resonate with and immediately switch the conversation to your experience, rather than continue to listen and probably find that the situation is actually different. How many times has that happened to you? Do you find it frustrating? Do you end up thinking, “Why am I even bothering to speak?
Filtering: Most of us have filters of our own about something and we tend to listen through them. So if you have a filter for criticism, then even if someone is actually giving you some praise, you are likely not to hear it because you will be listening for the negatives.
Rehearsing: This often goes with Filtering. So if you are tuned to hearing criticism, you will likely be rehearsing what you are going to say in your defence, whether it’s necessary or not!
These are just 5 barriers that will stop us from truly connecting with someone else and finding that in fact, we may have just missed an incredible opportunity to make a new friend or gain a new colleague.
So next time you are listening, remember: Ears, Eyes, Heart and Undivided Attention. As a Native American quote says: “Listen, or your tongue will keep you deaf”. Wise words indeed.
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