Listening Skills… They’re All the Rage!

“Are you a good listener? Try hearing with your heart instead of your head.” (B1 Community)

“I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”   Robert McCloskey

I am not a good listener.  And how do I know this?  Because someone recently told me so.  He said, and I quote, “You did not listen to what I said”.  I thought I did, but in his eyes, I chose to hear what I wanted to hear, which was “yes, we can do that”, which, in turn, he indicated, “Not sure”.  The power of positive thinking.  If you think you can, or think you can’t you’re right.  I don’t think turning the tables on my listening skills (or lack thereof) exhibited good behavior on his part.  🙂

That being said, however…he may have had a point.  🙂 I do think I , as well as society, can all do a better job listening.  A friend used to say, “You were given 2 ears and one mouth.  Use them accordingly”.  She may have said this to me, because I can be, at times, “chatty”.  (I know, another shocking revelation).  My children have also commented that I while I can recite, verbatim, what they Just said to me, it doesn’t appear that I”m listening to what they are saying.  So I am making a concerted effort to improve my listening skills.  Plus it exhibits good manners, and we know that good manners are Stylish.   When I googled “stylish listening”, I was presented with some lovely hearing aids.  That’s not what I was hoping to find…so,  I googled “listening skills” and came up with these nuggets of wisdom:

  1. Always keep a desire to listen to your partner, children, and friends. Do not look distracted when the other person is talking to you. If you are doing something important the politely ask to wait for some time until you finish your stuff.
  2. Do not interrupt the other person in the middle of his/her conversation. Do not try to give your advice in the middle of a communication by interrupting others. Just listen until the other person is done and if you want to give a piece of advice now is the correct time.
  3. Do not prepare your answer while they are talking. Try to stay only in the listening mode. Once you have all the information you will be more prepared to respond.
  4. Do not engage in selective listening. Listen to the words, facts and overall content of the person’s story. Do not just pay attention to what you find interesting.
  5. Observe facial expressions while listening. Also notice gestures, eye movement and body posture. This will give you information as to what they might be feeling about their conversation, more information to help you understand

The Art of Listening:

  • Trust is built on understanding
    • The more we understand someone the more trust we gain
  • Listening effectively is a discipline and skill
    • Although it takes effort-it takes practice too
  • How to ask purposeful questions in order to seek understanding
    • Using knowledge to ask not tell
    • Don’t need to be right, just productive
    • Ask better questions not just open ended questions
    • Bring it, don’t wing it.
  • It’s not what you say or how you say it, but when you say it.
    • Leaders need to understand in order to coach and motivate
    • All people want is respect and to seek approval
    • Don’t offer a solution until you have a complete understanding
  • Get involved   
    • Remove distractions, phones, computers, etc.
    • Show understanding
    • Body language
    • Eye contact
    • Going back to the basics
  • Listen to others the way you want others to listen to you
    • Be courteous not condescending
    • Watch for insincere communication tactics
      • What I hear you saying is…?  
  • Confirm understanding
  • Communication is a skill
    • Create a practice plan
    • Leader must coach not demand

And with college Finals right around the corner, I thought these Teacher/Student Listening Skills would be helpful for Meredith and her friends buckling down to take their tests:

Maintain eye contact with the instructor. Of course you will need to look at your notebook to write your notes, but eye contact keeps you focused on the job at hand and keeps you involved in the lecture.

Focus on content, not delivery. Have you ever counted the number of times a teacher clears his/her throat in a fifteen minute period? If so, you weren’t focusing on content.  My brother Luke has a classic story about this, and bets he and his friends would make…and when the teacher cleared his throat 87 times (which Luke bet), he jumped up and screamed!  🙂

Avoid emotional involvement. When you are too emotionally involved in listening, you tend to hear what you want to hear–not what is actually being said. Try to remain objective and open-minded.

Avoid distractions. Don’t let your mind wander or be distracted by the person shuffling papers near you. If the classroom is too hot or too cold try to remedy that situation if you can. The solution may require that you dress more appropriately to the room temperature.

Treat listening as a challenging mental task. Listening to an academic lecture is not a passive act–at least it shouldn’t be. You need to concentrate on what is said so that you can process the information into your notes.

Stay active by asking mental questions. Active listening keeps you on your toes. Here are some questions you can ask yourself as you listen. What key point is the professor making? How does this fit with what I know from previous lectures? How is this lecture organized?

Use the gap between the rate of speech and your rate of thought. You can think faster than the lecturer can talk. That’s one reason your mind may tend to wander. All the above suggestions will help you keep your mind occupied and focused on what being said. You can actually begin to anticipate what the professor is going to say as a way to keep your mind from straying. Your mind does have the capacity to listen, think, write and ponder at the same time, but it does take practice.

I think by being a better listener, and not as “distracted” as we can tend to be,  we can better be in the”Moment”.  Which, truth be told, I’m always hoping to do, and rarely “am”.  I want to be where I am, when I’m there, and not a million miles away thinking of everything else I have to do!  And this my friends, is yet, another goal of mine.

Listening Skills are Stylish.  I should have a magnet made of that. 🙂

Happy Listening!



And for my sister Megan, who thought this would be a good addition:

One comment

  1. What? 🙂

    Your picture of the Easter Bunny with his ears bitten off would have been perfect for this post!
    Good points.

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