We’d all like to think of ourselves as good listeners, but are we really? With a little honest introspection, we may uncover that we are actually quite the opposite. Is it possible that many of us are actually listening wrong?
Effective listening can be especially challenging to those who, according to the DISC behavioral profile, fall into the high D/I category. A sense of urgency and getting straight to the point sometime inhibit these fast-paced people from effectively listening. Being present in the moment should be our goal, regardless of what behavioral style we possess.
Understanding and being aware of these common listening pitfalls will help us to become better listeners. See five of the most common listening pitfalls and how to overcome them.
Listening to Solve
Human beings, for the most part, like to help other humans. While everyone may not necessarily be altruistic 24/7, if asked for help, most people will jump at the chance to help someone. It makes us feel good to help others.
The only problem with that in today’s fast-paced world is that we may be too quick to look for a solution to a person’s problem. Often we may wish to express that magic fix with exuberance and rapidity. In our minds, we have a solution to their problem and we want to express this solution - right now!
Unfortunately, the person may still have some important information to provide to us that we simply don’t hear because we have already formulated a solution in our minds before they have finished speaking.
Instead of trying to solve the issue at hand, you can clarify assumptions the other person holds and helps the other person to see the issue in a new light. Interject some your ideas that could be useful without hijacking the discussion.
Listening to Do
Like listening to solve above, listening to do deals with haste and inability to gather all the information needed to formulate a proper answer. We get so captivated by the first part of a person’s story that we begin to respond by taking some sort of action.
This listening fault is less about trying to come up with a solution, and more about fixing the problem right here and now. In being so quick to act, we may lack key information solely because we fail to hear.
When listening to do, we may show our urgency by jumping online trying to find an answer, texting a friend “in the know” or posting a query on Facebook for recommendations while the person we are talking with is still trying to communicate with us.
In order to avoid doing, clear away all distractions including your laptop, phone, or notepad and be fully present by focusing on the person who is speaking.
Listening to Respond
Similar to listening to do, we are so anxious to have the floor and respond that all we can process in our minds is our response, rendering the remaining incoming words relatively useless. Listening in this realm becomes a battle of who can talk fastest, or sometimes loudest, to get their information across and is quite ineffective.
The classic example of listening to respond is the perpetual interruptor. They just can’t wait for you to finish and start talking before you do. Not only is interrupting someone rude, but it inhibits effective communication.
To avoid the loss associated with responding instead of listening, stay silent. If anything, ask clarifying questions to the conversation and practice pausing before your respond to reflect on the entire conversation at hand.
Listening to Defy
Has someone ever said something to you that rubbed you the wrong way? And immediately you feel yourself tensing up and wanting to immediately rebut the thing that irritated you? In the blink of an eye you may become defensive and reactive.
If the content matter egregiously angers you, you may find yourself in the middle of an emotional hijack reacting in the mode of flight or fight, with a heavy lean on fight. Listening to defy really isn’t listening at all; it’s all about escalation.
Want to see this form of listening in action? Bring up politics or religion in the workplace and see what happens. Or better yet, refrain from doing so and be much better off because of it.
Suppress listening to defy by empathizing with the person with whom you are conversating. Amazing listeners create safe environment in which difficult issues are discussed, all while controlling their emotions.
Listening Without Your Eyes
If words are important, non-verbal cues are powerful. Seeing the way a person projects a message is vital. This includes reading their facial expressions and their overall body language. Being astutely aware of these non-verbal mannerisms can many times yield more valuable information than the words themself.
When listening without your eyes, eye contact is kept to a minimum. The person being talked to is likely to be looking at the computer screen or notepad rather than looking at the person with whom they are talking, creating the perception of an empty conversation. A person who listens without their eyes is perceived as being absent from the conversation.
To listen with your eyes as much as your ears, take time to actively observe non-verbals, like facial expressions, gestures, posture, and other body language.
Effective listening is a skill and, like any other skill, it needs to be practiced and developed. Knowing what to look for, especially these five common listening pitfalls, and how to overcome it will help you develop better listening skills and be more present in your conversations.
Pay special attention to your listening skills today and see if your communication habits fall into any of these listening pitfalls. Awareness is the first step in improvement and realizing you are listening wrong, and doing something about it, can help you to become a better listener.