The manner in which you stand, listen, gaze and move, tells the person you are communicating with how attentive you are, if you are being honest, and if you care or not. – Anthony Madani
Amy and Diane, from the story in Most Of Us, Don’t Know How To Listen, went to lunch to discuss the new project they had been given. Diane had been absent from the meeting where all the instructions and specifications on the project were handed out. It was the day Diane’s car was sideswiped.
Amy was kind enough to give Diane the card that Mr. Schroeder, their boss, had given out with all the information. Each of the five people on the development team was to design an app with the information on the card. All the apps would be evaluated and the best one given a bonus.
Diane wanting to pay Amy back for her kindness, asked her to lunch. Amy, the quiet type, didn’t have a lot of friends at work. She had a melancholy personality, quiet, analytical and detail-oriented, more of a deep thinker and feeler. At lunch, Amy didn’t seem to know what to talk about. She’d answered questions that Diane asked, but didn’t give much more information.
Diane did discover that Amy was born and raised outside of the United States. She and her parents were among the Vietnamese boat people that left Viet Nam at the end of the war in 1975. She was three when they left, but still has some memories of being on the boat. They lived in refugee camps for several years before getting asylum in the United States.
Amy wasn’t forthcoming with information about her life or her career. She seemed very intimidated by Diane, which made Diane very nervous and talkative. She eventually became so nervous that she talked almost non-stop and didn’t even notice when Amy did try to say something.
Diane started talking about the project they were to be working on telling Amy how it should be designed. Amy tried to make a comment, but Diane cut her off and continued talking. She didn’t pay any attention to the fact that Amy was trying to say something.
Amy began looking at her phone like she wished it would ring or an alarm would go off signaling time to go back to work. The lunch was very uncomfortable for both women.
To Become “interesting” you must become “interested”. Talk less, listen more. Don’t “fake” interest, “take” interest. – Don Carmont
The Poser – Pretend Listener – Fake Listener – Not Listening
Pretend Listening – pretending to listen – giving the appearance of listening. Pretend Listening is very disrespectful. It’s very easy to pretend to be listening, to be a ‘poser’. You make good eye contact or nod occasionally. You may even throw in a few well-placed affirming words such as, “yeah”, “really” or “wow”. You may be able to pull this off – at least in public. You may even have yourself convinced that you’re listening.
If your mind starts to wander, rein it in. Actively listen! It’s a choice. If the roles were reversed you would want others to listen to you.
Not Listening At All – Have you ever been in a situation where you are talking to someone when you notice they are showing no signs of listening. There are no occasional affirmative words or nods. They are not looking at you. How does that make you feel? I have been in that situation. I stopped in mid-sentence, turned and walked away. I felt very disrespected like I wasn’t important to that person at all.
Talking too much – A person who is very talkative and doesn’t listen to others may cause the listener to shut down from boredom or from just trying to get a word in edgewise. Many people hesitate to get into a deep conversation with a talkative person. A talkative person often comes across as too aggressive and not interested in what someone else has to say. Too often they are a “know-it-all”, a fixer, or someone who is going to tell you exactly who to do when to do it, and how to do it.
If you are one that is prone to excessive talking, become self-aware and mix your talking with asking questions. Exercise active listening when the other person is speaking. Don’t try to fix or give advice. Use active listening protocols as discussed in “How To Hear What People Are Really Saying.”
Prejudice – Feelings of prejudice often causes animosity and hard feelings between people of different backgrounds, appearance, age, religion, race, etc. This can be the cause of a breakdown in group dynamics and prevent a person from hearing what is being said. It can be a big problem in a work environment where people of different cultures or races are required to work closely together.
Extend respect to the speaker, his background, age, religion, race, etc. Try not to elevate your thoughts and perspectives above that of the speaker. Look for the positives in the person and what he/she is saying. Think about how you would want to be treated if the roles were reversed. Luke 6:31 NASD “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.”
Distractions – With today’s technology it is very easy to be distracted by your phone, Facebook, emails or whatever. It’s even easier to be distracted when you really don’t want to listen.
Distractions have an easy solution. Mute or turn off your device when you are in a conversation. Face the person who is speaking and give them good eye contact and body language. Make yourself and the speaker feel comfortable by showing them you are interested, by exercising attentive listening. You may not agree with what is being said or even the subject, but you can be respectful. It’s a choice.
Different Beliefs – Every person has their own beliefs, convictions, opinions, and perspectives. We are all different. Yet, we all would like to have our beliefs respected even though they may not line-up with others.
Find something you can appreciate about the other person’s unique belief. Can their perspective give you some new insight into the situation? Is there something that you are missing in your perspective? Look for something positive. Use empathic listening. Learn to empathize with others.
“When you are able to empathize with the other person; you will actually feel a deep sense of what they are saying. Feeling into their situation will really help you understand their point of view, and give you a different perspective.” Anthony Madani, Master Listening Skills
Misinterpretation – Without active, attentive listening it’s very easy to misunderstand what the other person is saying. When this happens, ask a question to clarify. Don’t assume you know. Be polite and respectful. Don’t interrupt. Very often the speaker will appreciate your attempt to clear up a point. If you aren’t sure about what has been said, there is a high likelihood that someone else in the group also needs the point clarified.
Clarification also shows that you are listening, that you are paying attention.
Emotions – Emotions such as anger, fear, sadness, personal dislike of something or someone, and self-pity are emotions that are focused inward. The more one feels these emotions the harder it is to focus on what is being said.
If you are the one who is upset take steps to calm your emotions with deep breathing, relaxation. Push the thoughts causing the emotions out of your mind while you are listening.
If the speaker is the one who is emotionally upset active, attentive listening will almost always help to calm them down.
If you want to defuse an argument, the best way is to stop speaking and start actively listening.
If you know your current emotional state is not conducive to active listening, take action. Be aware of any hurdles or difficulties that may keep you from staying focused and change them if possible. Reschedule the conversation for a different time. If that is not possible, take steps to be a more active, attentive listener.
“One of the most sincere forms of respect is listening to what another has to say,” –
Bryant H. McGill
Diane realized that she had been overly talkative. She didn’t like overly talkative people and here she was being one. She had read that before change could take place the person had to become aware.
She sat quietly, for a moment, reviewing her talkativeness. How and why did she become the one with an abundance of words? She was always the quiet one.
“Effective listening involves not only tuning in to others, but tuning in to ourselves. Listening carefully to what we say and how we say it can teach us an immense amount about ourselves.” – Madeline Burley-Allen.
“Oh, my goodness,” Diane exclaimed. “I’m so sorry I’ve been talking nonstop. Please, is there anything you wanted to say that I didn’t hear?”
Amy’s face brightened and she made good eye contact with Diane. She leaned forward slightly as she blackened her phone, “Yes, actually, I wanted to tell you Mr. Shroeder did say we could work together on the project. The others were so interested in the bonus that they have shut down communication. But, I have an idea that if we work together on it we will have the best apps in the group. This morning when I woke up, I had a design idea that might work really well, but I need some help working out an algorithm that is really your forte’.”
Diane smiled as she began to relax. She leaned forward slightly giving Amy her full, undivided attention.
The talkative listen to no one, for they are ever speaking. And the first evil that attends those who know not to be silent is that they hear nothing. – Plutarch