Are You a Good Listener? The Answer Might Surprise You.
“We may believe that we are good listeners, but listening is more than waiting for your turn to interrupt.” - Simon Sinek
Given all the listening that we do, you would think we’d be good at it! In fact, most of us are not, and research suggests that we only remember between 25 percent and 50 percent of what we hear. That means that when you talk to your boss, colleagues, customers, or spouse for 10 minutes, they pay attention to less than half of the conversation. There are different types of listening. When I ask my clients how many types of listening they know, the regular answer I receive, is passive and active. That is correct, but there are actually six different types of listening.
- The first one is simply hearing. That means I’m hearing you, but I’m not listening. There is a noise there, and that’s fine, but I’m not listening.
- The second one is called pretending. All of us are smart social beings, so we know how to do all the physical, the body language that we pretend that we are listening. We are nodding, we say ‘yes,’ but we are on our thoughts. As Charlie Harper from Two and Half Man said: When I say, “I understand”, it doesn’t mean I agree. It doesn’t mean I understand. It doesn’t even mean I’m listening to you.
- The third one is self-biographic listening. If you have a blanket hog in your life, stealing your sheets and blankets every night, you know how frustrating it can be lol. Self-biographic people are notorious “cover stealers” in conversations and can be as frustrating to deal with. Those are the people that when you are telling your story, will in one moment interrupt you and say, ‘Hey, that reminds me of something similar that happened to me.’ And they will start telling about him or her. The typical attitude that the person is just listening waiting for the moment to introduce something personal. I can imagine that all of you know somebody like this; or maybe you are that person yourself, always trying to tell your story and not exactly listening.
- The fourth one is selective listening. There is a group of people that practice selective listening all the time. If I ask you, I know that you will know the answer - kids and adolescents, they practice selective listening 100% of the time. They only listen to what they want. Unfortunately, as adults we are guilty of that behavior too. Selective listening is the phenomenon that occurs when we only see what we want to see and hear what we want to hear. It’s a type of mental filtering in which we tune out someone’s opinions or ideas when they don’t line up with ours. The problem with this type of listening is that it makes us close-minded and causes a lot of unnecessary tension in professional and personal relationships. Think about the last time it was clear to you that the person you were talking to have no interest in what you were saying. It was apparent that they didn’t want to hear what you had to say, and even if they were nodding their head, your words were going in one ear and out the other. That was quite a frustrating experience, wasn’t it?
- The fifth one is active listening. This is where you make a conscious effort to hear not only the words that another person is saying but, more importantly, the complete message being communicated. In order to do this, you must pay attention to the other person very carefully. Active listening not only means focusing fully on the speaker but also actively showing verbal and non-verbal signs of listening.
Research shows that when we communicate feelings and attitudes, only a small percentage of our overall message comes from the words we use.
- 55% of our message comes from body language (especially from movements of the small muscles around the eye which can convey shock, disbelief, doubt, or disgust)
- 38% of our message comes from tone of voice
- Only 7% of our message is conveyed by the words we use
- The sixth one is empathetic listening. One basic principle is to “seek to understand, before being understood. It differs from active listening by adding an emotional component to a conversation and making a person feel that you are on his or her side. Active listening is about connecting cognitively, empathetic listening is about connecting emotionally. Through empathetic listening you let the other party know, “I understand your problem and how you feel about it, “I am interested in what you are saying, and I am not judging you.” And please remember, empathy is not sympathy. Whereas sympathy is “feeling for someone,” empathy is “feeling as someone.”
Let’s be honest with ourselves, we are not always utilizing the last two listening styles, though they have been proven to be a key to having powerful conversations, build trusting and cohesive teams, and inspire action.
At the bottom of this blog, there is an amazing 15-minute TEDx talk by William Ury on the power of listening. He is a co-founder of Harvard’s Program on Negotiation, is one of the world’s best-known and most influential experts on negotiation. He has taught negotiation to tens of thousands of people, has consulted for dozens of Fortune 500 companies, and has served as a consultant to the White House.
I am challenging you to be mindful of how you listen, and you will be surprised how often you approach conversations in the selective listening mode, stay in your own thoughts, or simply waiting your turn to tell our own story or to prove that you are right. Listening is a golden key that opens the doors to human connection and meaningful relationships and it cost us nothing to start practicing this skill every day.
In order to understand the need for active and empathetic listening, we need to be aware that we receive and evaluate everything through our personal lens, through which we interpret the world. Remember, no message is ever decoded without bias. During our coaching sessions we will look into how your brain creates those filters and discuss specific tips on how to overcome common communication pitfalls and improve your conscious listening, deepen your capacity to be present, and experience deeper engagement and connection in your personal and work relationships.
Are you ready to unlock your full potential and become the high-impact leader you were always meant to be? If so, we are ready to partner with you and guide you to the next level of success. Sign up for coaching today!
“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The people who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.” –Karl A. Menniger