And although outstanding listeners do it seemingly effortlessly, as a recent article in Entrepreneur points out, there are some common issues that tend to characterize ineffective listening.
Here are just three of the ones they outlined:
- Affirmative listening
Every talk to someone with a constant “yes”-nod? That’s affirmative listening. This kind of listening may seem harmless on the surface, but is in fact one of the most dangerous kinds of listening. Affirmative listening doesn’t explore or share different points of view. Affirmative listeners hear through a “me” filter, that affirms and validates their own opinion without truly hearing the speaker’s.
- Assumptive listening
We all come to conversations with certain assumptions; about the other person, the situation, and the environment. But these assumptions can turn dangerous when we listen, assuming we already know what the person is going to say. Finishing someone’s sentence before they’ve finished their thought is an example of assumptive listening. This can be incredibly damaging to the speaker/listener relationship because it completely devalidates the speaker’s right to speak. Setting aside our assumptions can be a challenge, but by giving our full attention to the speaker and their message, we afford them the respect to express their thoughts fully.
- Judgmental listening
Judgmental listening constantly criticizes, disagrees with, or condemns the speaker. This kind of listening is exhausting and incredibly frustrating to the speaker. And it can cultivate a fear of speaking up or sharing their thoughts, feelings or perspectives. This kind of listening can eventually cause the speaker to completely disengage and mentally exit the conversation before it’s actually over.
Truly effective listening starts with a mindset of curiosity about what the other person has to say.
Part of establishing that mindset is clearing out the “mind trash” of all other things you are thinking about. That can include the email you just read but didn’t respond to yet, the phone call you just had, something you are thinking about doing, and even your own internal responses to what the other person is saying.
Quieting down your mind is critical to being truly available to hear someone else. Taking a few deep breaths before listening and simply focusing on your breathing is an excellent centering technique.
Also, make sure your physical surroundings are conducive to good listening. Turn off your phone, turn off your computer monitor, and clear your desk of anything unnecessary so you won’t be distracted.
Finally, encourage the person to say more through questions like, “What else would you like me to know about that?” or, “What are your thoughts about that?” Allow for pauses after you’ve asked those questions, as people sometimes need time to think before following up.
The right mindset, the right questions, and the right setting are all essential for listening most effectively. And that can have a profound impact on your relationships with others.
Question: What are the qualities you have seen in the most effective listeners you know?