We all think of ourselves as good listeners, we believe that we pay enough respect to the speaker by seeming to listen intently to every word that has been spoken (You may as well be time-traveling!) After all haven’t we been told quite a few times that being a good listener is to be like a sponge that accurately absorbs what the other person is saying! Show a few verbal indications that communicate listening.
Time again to break the myth! (I like doing this, gives me a perverse pleasure to fire up a situation just when we are getting comfortable with it)
Today’s findings show that good listeners are like trampolines. They are someone you can bounce ideas off — and rather than absorbing your ideas and energy, they amplify, energize, and clarify your thinking. They make you feel better not merely by passively absorbing, but by actively supporting. Very similar to someone jumping on a trampoline which lets them gain energy and height & a great sense of freedom
Seen children jumping on trampolines? With every new acceleration, they manage they squeal with joy! Good listening should also be able to impart this joy both to the speaker & the listener. Believe me when I say that you would have found a friend forever as well
Of course, there are different levels of listening. Not every conversation requires the highest levels of listening, but many conversations would benefit from greater focus and listening skills. Let’s understand the levels of listening so that we know which to adopt depending on the situation & need.
Consider which level of listening you’d like to aim for: (These are situation-specific, not necessarily for every conversation)
Level 1: The listener would ideally create an environment conducive to open up on complicated difficult, complex, or emotional issues.
Level 2: The listener should clear away distractions like the phone, shuts the laptop & instead focuses attention on the person making appropriate eye-contact. (This not only affects how you are perceived as the listener; it immediately influences the listener’s own attitudes and inner feelings. This in turn makes you a better listener.) Not as simple as it sounds. You really need to be able to keep the distractions at bay.
Level 3: The listener tries to make sense of what the other person is saying. They try to capture the gist, ideas, may ask questions, and rephrase the issues to confirm that their understanding is correct.
Level 4: The listener observes non-verbal cues, such as facial expressions, agitation, perspiration, gestures, posture, and numerous other subtle body language signals. It is estimated that 80% of what we communicate comes from these signals. That’s why it’s often said that we listen through our eyes & not just ears!
Level 5: The listener would increasingly understand the other person’s emotions and feelings about the topic at hand, and identifies and acknowledges them. A good listener empathizes with and validates those feelings in a supportive, nonjudgmental way.
Level 6: Finally the listener asks questions to clarify assumptions the other person holds and helps the other person to see the issue in a new perspective. However, good listeners never ever highjack the conversation so that they or their issues become the subject of the discussion.
Each of the levels builds on the others. So let’s think of a time when you were told, “Look just listen to me, don’t keep offering solutions! This may mean you need to attend to some of the other levels (such as clearing away distractions or empathizing) before your proffered suggestions can be appreciated. This comes naturally to you once you consciously start practicing the art of good listening.
The HBR review article “ What great listeners do “that I mentioned earlier says that in being a good listener, most of us are more likely to stop short rather than go too far. This is an endeavor to go a little too far rather than falling short.
Hopefully, when we do introspection & brutally at that we may come out of our illusions of being superior to others in listening & communicating. More importantly all the classical myths of what a good listener should be broken down.
If this article ignites even a few individuals into evaluating their levels of listening I’m sure we would be very close to our goals of creating Good listeners.
Always remember the hallmarks of great listening, empathize, help Validate, be non-Judgmental & help the speaker amplify & energize their thoughts & in the process give them more clarity on the same
I hope these thoughts resonate & remain with you the next time you are in a conversation. It would be great to hear from all of you, your thoughts on these discussions. Is there anything else you would want me to take up at length or should we now directly go to the LISTENING STYLES which will help us slot our patterns?
Thoughts discussed & inspired by some of these scholars: What Great Listeners Actually Do by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman Barker, L.L. (1971). Listening Behavior. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice HallWatson, K.W., and Barker, L.L. (1995). Listening Styles Profile. Amsterdam: Pfeiffer & Company