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Listening To Hear

By Joyce Hansen |

I was enjoying dinner with a colleague in a secluded area of a restaurant until a person with a BlackBerry started pacing by our table speaking a mile a minute in a loud tone. We politely asked the person to move away from our table. They moved a few steps away but continued pacing the floor, speaking even louder. We thought the hostess would help but to no avail. We thought if we threatened to throw the BlackBerry into the next room that they would move away from us but this didn't work either because they weren't listening. They were oblivious to the fact that there was anyone else in the room; they were only concerned about themselves and their addictive device.

It amazes me that many restaurants insist that you check your coat before being seated. Why don't they also insist on people checking all of their communication devices too in order that everyone can enjoy an unencumbered meal?

I was so annoyed that I had to restrain myself from physically getting out of my chair and grabbing the phone to heave it into the next room. Why wasn't he listening to our pleasant request; why didn't the hostess listen to our plea for assistance? Few people seem to be listening beyond the occasional nod they give to the speaker.

It is time to assess our own listening styles and to watch out for the ineffective ones with the goal to want to change them to effective styles for improved communication and relationships:

  1. Pseudo listening - an imitation of the real thing - you know the type - smile, nod, add a few words while masking thoughts that have nothing to do with what is being said
  2. Stage-Hogging - the stage-hogger is busy looking for ways to turn the topic of conversation to themselves instead of showing interest in the speaker
  3. Selective Listening - responding only to the parts of the speakers' remarks that interest them, rejecting everything else that is said
  4. Insulated Listening - the cold shoulder style - this listener fails to hear or acknowledge the speaker when they don't want to discuss a topic and the speaker starts talking about the subject anyway
  5. Defensive Listening - this listener thinks the speaker is out to get them and reads into every word that is being said to try to decipher if they feel it is a personal insult
  6. Ambushing - watch these type of listeners - they are listening but they are gathering information to use against you when you finish speaking
  7. Insensitive Listening - these type of listeners take the speakers' words at face value - they don't take into consideration the words not being spoken and behavior being exhibited that perhaps the speaker is communicating more than the words that are actually spoken

Can you relate to any of these listening styles? I think we have all been guilty of being an ineffective listener at numerous times in our lives. Perhaps you might want to become a better listener. Some tips to try are:

  1. Practice the Basics of Listening
    Practice your listening skills every day. Have someone tell you a brief story and then immediately summarize what the person said and relay the communication back to them. Discuss with the person if it was an accurate translation.

  2. Practice Instant Recollection
    If you think you might embarrass yourself trying the exercise in #1, read a story in a newspaper as if the columnist was telling you the story and then write a summary without referring back to the newspaper. Reread the story and reflect on how much you remembered and why.

  3. Practice Various Listening Styles
    Study different effective listening styles and practice each to determine which styles you would like to incorporate into your daily communication.

  4. Practice Listening With Your Ears Only
    Turn off all communication devices when you are communicating with someone. If this isn't possible, let the people you are with know that you may need to excuse yourself for a brief moment to answer the emergency call.

  5. Practice Listening For Pure Pleasure
    When is the last time you listened for the pure pleasure of hearing what the other person had to say? Try relaxing, calm your mind and just listen. You will be amazed at how much more you learn about the person and about the topics they are discussing.

  6. Practice Speaking To Lure Listeners
    Slow down your speech and create interesting storylines that are of current interest to the people you will be speaking with. This will entice their curiosity to learn more about you and what you are talking about. The goal is to have people lean towards you, not to be repelled with words that are spoken quickly and without thought.

  7. Practice Listening To Overcome Objections
    How many times have you heard the expression - you have two ears and one mouth - use them wisely? Sales representatives lose orders because they do most of the talking and fail to hear what the true objections of the prospect really are.

    People will give you clues if you are attentive enough to watch and listen for them. When someone keeps glancing away from you when you are speaking to listen to other people's conversations, you know you have lost them. Ensure you use open ended questions to keep people engaged in the conversation.

  8. Practice Listening To Enhance Relationships
    To be understood you first need to understand. Have you heard people say "they just don't understand me". I wonder how much time they have invested in trying to understand what the other person is saying first and know what it would be like to "walk a mile in their shoes". To build relationships that last, try understanding the other person's point of view first before expecting them to understand yours.

  9. Practice Listening To Avoid Disappointments
    Many times I have thought I heard a person say something because I truly wanted to hear certain words be spoken. Later I found out that they hadn't either said what I thought they said or they didn't mean what I thought they did. This is especially disappointing when you think you have agreed to do business together and it turns out the other person was not committed to cementing the deal.

  10. Practice Listening To Learn
    How many times do we just listen long enough to capture key words and then tune out the rest of the conversation? Try to slow your mind down long enough to listen to every word the person says. Who knows you may learn something you didn't know. Everyone has something of value to share with the world.

  11. Practice Breathing Techniques
    Try meditating before you go into a meeting where you will need to concentrate for an extended period of time. You will probably be able to concentrate better, provide valuable input into the meeting, hear what the other people say and be able to summarize the meeting effectively.

    The meditation technique can be as simple as finding a quiet place, closing your eyes and listening to your breathing. Deep breaths in and out will help you gain focus and clarity and refresh you whenever you need to still the chatter in your brain.

Can you image what it would be like if you couldn't hear at all? Don't take the ability to hear for granted. Hone your skills to hear every word and sound and notice how the world around you changes.

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