Communication Secret: The Art of Listening
Editor's Summary: Read this article to learn if you are a good listener. We all like to think that we have mastered the communication art of listening, but we should make time to review the skills required of a good listener. Recognize what type of listener you are by reading this article and learn what changes you would like to make to your listening skills.
In working with many people throughout my career, I've come to appreciate that listening is truly an art. Developing strong listening skills is a key element in building collaborative professional relationships and long-lasting personal friendships.
Many people may claim to be great listeners. Are you?
In Stephen Covey's book, 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, he describes 5 Levels of Listening:
* Empathic Listening - Listening/responding with both the heart and mind to understand the speaker's words intent and feelings. Listen for what is not being said.
* Attentive Listening - Paying attention, focusing on the speaker's words/comparing to your own experiences.
* Selective Listening - Hearing only what interests you.
* Pretend - Giving the appearance of listening.
* Ignore - No effort to listen.
What level of listening do you relate to most of the time?
Being a great listener includes how you respond to what you hear!
Common Responses to Information (general conversation, problems, situations, conflicts etc):
1. Telling you what they think you should do to fix it.
2. Comparing your situation to something that happened to them which pulls the focus away from you (which may or may not be what you need to feel supported!)
3. Trying to cheer you up or shift your mood distracting you from what you are thinking and feeling.
4. Asking so many questions, it feels like an interrogation.
5. Interruptions that control the direction of the conversation.
If you have experienced any of the above responses, how did you feel? Did you feel you were someone who really listened to you in the way you needed?
The most power-full kind of listening is empathic listening. If you have the desire to listen with empathy, some simple physical adjustments immediately get you ready.
. Stop what you are doing.
. Turn your body to face the person. Invite them to sit, and if possible, sit near them. If they stand, you stand.
. Make eye contact as you listen and speak.
. During the conversation, resist the urge towards distractions (looking through papers, taking a call etc.)
. Monitor your focus of attention. If you notice your thoughts wander, return to what they are saying, listen for their tone of voice, notice their posture and facial expression. Let go of thinking about what you are going to say next be willing to be fully present!
. Learn to be comfortable with pauses and silences. Summarize what you hear them saying. "What I hear you saying is."
With practice, you'll have a much better understanding of how you listen, and when to move your listening to a higher level. Having empathy for others is not possible if you are unable to listen with empathy.
Exercise: Recall an experience when you felt someone really listened to you?
- How did you feel? What did you think?
- What was important for you about that experience?
- What did you learn about yourself when someone really listened?
- To what extent do you communicate to others what you need from them as a listener?
- How can you use to information to be a more empathic listener for others?
Copyright 2003, Lorraine Cohen
Lorraine Cohen of Powerfull Living (http://www.powerfull-living.biz) is a Business Coach and Life Strategist and Team Member of Solo-E (http://www.Solo-E.com). Integrating her therapy background with coaching, she helps people make more money, manage their time, increase self-assurance, resolve inner conflict, stay focused on the results they want, and balance work and home life.
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