Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen. (Winston Churchill)
This post extends upon a previous post (Make sure it's not you) covering the topic of listening skills. More specifically, how to identify when you are listening but not actually hearing what people are saying. I strongly believe that listening (recognizing the words) and hearing (thinking & understanding) what people say are two entirely different things.
For example, you can introduce prejudices that influence how you interpret the actions and words of another person in either a good or negative fashion. However, you are introducing distortion and potentially negatively affecting your relationship by doing this. Suppose, I listen to you with rose-colored glasses (e.g., I take everything in a positive light), I may not realize I need to deliver a strong message to you such as, "I don't think that idea will work because it does not address your core need." On the other hand, I don't think you'd like it if I merely gave you lip service and didn't even consider your arguments seriously. So how can you tell if you aren't hearing what people are saying? Here are some indications:
- Are you constantly interrupting people? Do you finish their sentences?
- Are you unwilling to even listen to anything that doesn't fit with your thinking?
- Do you think the issues facing others are trivial before you even speak to them?
- Do you feel you know what people need before they even discuss it with you?
- Do you roll your eyes when others are talking to you?
- Do you enter a conversation with a preset position? Does this position distort what you hear?
- Do you start side-conversations with other people rather than always being attentive to the speaker?
These types of behaviors can be indicative of a listening (I mean hearing) problem. The hardest part is realizing that you are listening but not hearing. However, you can resolve this problem with a few simple steps:
- Before you enter a discussion, divest yourself of any preconceived judgments and notions.
- Let people talk to you in their own words. Don't put words in their mouths or lead them.
- Use active listening to play back what you understood. Clarify any miscommunications.
- Ask probing questions to fill in the gaps.
After taking these simple steps you'll have a more unbiased and objective perspective. Furthermore, your clients will know you're listening and interacting with them.