Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Ins and Outs of Effective Listening

Effective listening is an essential competency for anyone who wishes to be a leader. They need to understand how to motivate and empower others. Active, clarifying listening skills is important when people need direction or advice and prevents us giving premature solutions without having all the facts, thereby very often magnifying the problem rather than solving it. As well, it helps us to avoid misunderstandings coming from wrong interpretations of what is being said. Listening effectively also helps us control feelings and emotions that may be triggered the moment we feel blame comes into play.

Effective and active listening helps one to avoid conflict, obtain knowledge we didn't have before, capture ideas and expand on them with another individual and recognise others for valuable input and contributions to an organisation's success.

When we don't listen to others....hear where they're coming from, we in effect show them they have no value whatsoever. These people are not leaders. They are dictators.

Those who don't listen usually feel they already know what they're going to hear (clairvoyants?) or seek confirmation not information (their way is the only way so why waste time and hear another point of view?).

Be honest with any of these ring true? And if you don't want to be honest with yourself, (that would be seeking confirmation of what you want to hear not information), ask those around you what they think.

• You Compare - You don't listen because you're already wondering who is better. (One upmanship)
• You read minds - You already know what they're going to say and are trying to figure out what's behind it (feelings, emotions, water cooler talk etc).
• You're Rehearsing - After the first two words you're already figuring out your response (without really hearing what you'll be responding to. A great way to start conflict)
• You Filter - You hear what you want to hear and filter out the rest.
• You Judge - They're not worthy of your attention, so why waste time listening?
• You Daydream - You listen to a fraction of what's said. You're thinking about your last meeting or date.
• You Identify - Everything they tell brings to mind something that happened to you, but it was MUCH better or worse or faster or ......and jump in with your story right away. Their experience doesn't count.
• You give advice - Miss or Mister Fix-it. After three words you can solve the problems of the world. Oh...there wasn't a problem? (Now there is!)
• You Argue - You love debate. It's been too instead of "hearing" the other person, you're going to look for something to argue about (mentally rubbing your hands together with glee just looking for that first target.....)


It's time to realise you don't know everything. Everyone who walks by you, who works and lives with you knows something about life that you don't. Leaders acknowledge this and look to expand their realm of knowledge every minute of every day while strengthening skills and talents at the same time.

A Few Guidelines:

• Listen for ideas, not only facts and ask yourself and the other person what they mean. What it means to you can have an entirely different meaning to someone else. This is how ideas are born.
• Judge what they say not how they say it. Keep your emotions out of it.
• Listen for value. It's in there somewhere.
• Don't judge and jump to conclusions without all the facts.
• Be flexible. How a person communicates isn't necessarily the same as you. And if you don't understand the point, take notes to ask the speaker later.
• Concentrate. Keep eye contact. If you start daydreaming you're just going to have to ask them for the same information again and there's no easy way to do that without showing them you've ignored them the first time around.
• Listen at the Speaker's pace. If you forge ahead, you're going to lose what HE'S saying.
• Open your mind to the possibility that you don't know it all! There might be something new for you to grasp.
• React to what the speaker is saying. Nod, use body language that shows you're listening. Keep eye contact, use language that invites more, and ask for clarification if you don't understand where this is going.
• Listen for the other person's point of view.

"Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends 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. Menninger

Donna Karlin

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