How many times have you heard this from a friend, colleague, boss, or more often from the spouse! Yes, I meant “heard “because if you had been listening there would not have been that question in the first place!

When I had planned my series on Communication, Listening as a skill was not on the top of my mind but the more I delve into this I realize how little has been discussed on this. Of course, there are articles & few in-depth discussions on this but it’s always been relegated into the background & not really given the top grades that it actually deserves. More importantly, it’s presumed that we are all born good listeners & everyone is in the receiving mode!

In our last article we had concluded by saying that we should aim to master “Global Listening which is, listening to learn “. This sounded pretty simple enough. I’m sure if I were to ask, most of us would say we are good listeners.  I remember reading this article in HBR (What Great Listeners Actually Do? by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman July 14, 2016) which said that People’s appraisal of their listening ability is much like their assessment of their driving skills, in that the great bulk of adults think they’re above average. It further mentioned that most people think good listening comes down to doing three things:

  • Ensuring they don’t talk  when others are speaking
  • Communicating  through facial expressions and verbal sounds (“Mmm-hmm”), that one is listening
  • & finally being able to repeat what others have said, practically word-for-word

In fact, much management advice on listening suggests doing these very things – encouraging listeners to remain quiet, nod and “mm-hmm” encouragingly, and then repeat back to the talker something like, “So, If I understand you correctly, what you’re saying is…”

This was our go-to statement right from the days of our training sessions as a PSO. Objection handling was a very intense session with role-play across the board & we were coached on how to handle objections raised by Doctors! We were told this would also give us some time to mull over the right answer before replying. Having listened to so many objections raised by Doctors on why they couldn’t prescribe a particular brand probably did hone my Listening skills!

All this was making me pretty confident of the fact that I’m a good listener but recent research had to break the bubble that I was in!

Research suggests that these behaviors are just the tip of the iceberg & fall far short of describing good listening skills. Now there is a set of New standards for listening:

  • Good listening is a lot more than being silent while the other person talks.
    • A healthy two-way dialog is considered to be far better listening than someone just periodically nodding their head.
    • A good question asked in between is a better sign to the speaker that he is being listened to with interest
  • Good listening has to include interactions that build a person’s self-esteem.
    • Trying to score points is never going to make you a good listener.
    • Every conversation doesn’t have to be about you. How about creating interactions where you help build a person’s self-esteem.
    • One doesn’t have to be critical or rude all the time. You will be remembered for the good times you have created for others rather than your boorish behavior of a “ know it all”
  • Good listening should create a cooperative conversation.
    • A good conversation is not a debate, at least not the ones we see nowadays!
    • Poor listeners are usually very competitive because they are worried that they may miss out on  the opportunity to make their point whereas a good listener would prefer to give a patient hearing & then give feedback if needed be & that too constructively
  • Good listeners tend to make suggestions, not offer Solutions & don’t get offended if they are not implemented
    • Many a time people just listen to parts of the conversation & have already arrived at solutions based on their selective listening.
    • Whereas a good listener may offer a few suggestions which could lead to solutions but always keeps the speaker’s emotions in mind.

Well, all this is hard work & cannot happen overnight. We have to consciously start watching ourselves & stop when we realize we are going against the flow of good listening skills.

So for us to become Global listeners we would need to first know what our Listening styles are! Have you ever given a thought to what is your listening style? Would you like to know what Listening style you adopt?

Importantly would you like to know where you are placed on the Listening grid? If yes, drop me a note & I will send you a tool kit to help you understand your listening skills.

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