Listening is more than hearing!

Listening is more than hearing! Talking is more than words. Seeing “eye to eye” breaks down barriers. Good communication depends on more than effective speakers. Good communication is about the quality of the communication between the speaker and the listener.

“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” ---Ralph G. Nichols

We spend a lot of time listening; but, we are not always effective listeners. Researchers tell us that the average person spend 40% of their time listening; 35% talking; 16% reading, and 9% writing.

There are four basic listening styles: Impatient, Drifting. Willing, and Selective.

The impatient listener tends to quickly see the big picture and then gets bored and ‘impatient’ with any further details. This, of course, comes across to the speaker as rude and uncaring.

The drifter is a very active person who usually has a lot of different things going on. While listening to others he tends to ‘drift’ off and begin thinking about his own agenda. The speaker, who can tell from the drifter’s body language that he is no longer tuned in, feels as though the drifter is not interested in or listening to what is being said.

The willing listener is very willing to listen and usually makes the speaker feel very well received. However, willing listeners tend to focus more on feelings that facts.

The selective listener is a very detailed and precise person who listens for facts and wants to know the “whys” of a situation. This quest for information often comes across as criticism or an attitude of superiority to the speaker.

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” ---Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

Body language, on the part of either the speaker or the listener, is a critical factor in effective communications. 96% of what we communicate is not done with words. Tone of voice, the volume with which we speak, facial expression, use of arms and hands, and posture convey far more than the words we speak.

When listening to others follow three simple rules: Look up; Look at; Ask open-ended questions. When someone is speaking to you be sure to look up at that person - shows respect and says I’m listening. Look at the speaker - remember, a large portion of what they are communicating is being done with body language. Ask open-ended questions (questions which require more than a brief, yes or no type answer). Asking open-ended questions shows interest in what the speaker is saying while providing more information. What one person says and what the other person hears are often two different things. Asking open-ended questions is extremely important if the person is upset, angry, or difficult - it shows concern and it allows the angry person a vent for their emotions. As they talk they tend to begin the cooling down process.

“Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking.” ---Bernard M. Baruch

"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. Menniger

Pat A. Bishop, People & Solutions, Inc.

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