Helping More

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How Well Do You Listen?

By: Ellen Berk, LCSW BCD

Jill thinks of herself as a good listener. She claims she hears and understands what is being communicated. She says she hears what her colleagues say and adequately responds to what is said. Jill really missed the boat by placing too much emphasis on the literal verbal messages. Jill listened selectively for the information that she was looking for. She often missed the communications given by voice tone, inflection, and body language. She rarely thought about what information her employees selectively left out which is a strong and vitally important communication.

Healthy Listening Requires More than Just Hearing the Words

Listening or being attuned means being open to the verbal, and nonverbal messages as well as thinking about the information that is excluded. Fair listening means knowing how your values and standards might also affect your ability to absorb the entire message. You must be fully present in your listening. This means that if you catch your self drifting to a day dream of thinking what is being said is boring or stupid, then you need to bring yourself back to concentrating of what is the complete message. Try listening without your pre-conceived conclusions and judgements. Your colleagues and friends often can sense when you stop being attuned. Without any of this being addressed others can feel misunderstood no matter how positive the verbal message.

Listening for the purpose of better understanding is different from listening for specific information. A salesperson listens for objections and tries to figure out what response will be given while he or she is listening. Listening is selective and goal oriented by a salesperson. If you have ever had a friend or spouse, who kept on pitching you when at home, you know that selective goal driven listening has its place but does not promote unity or understanding. Someone who tries to "sell" himself or herself or be right by selling their ideas can appear insecure. Listening to be right or to win an argument is not listening that helps develop trust at home or morale at work.

Listening for Understanding Checklist

__ Listen with out judgement or drawing conclusions before you have all the information.

__ Recognize what situations call for selective listening and what situations would benefit from compassionate listening.

__ Evaluate the verbal messages as well as body language; note conflicting messages.

__ Stay attuned with active listening using full eye contact.

__ Don't be afraid to show some emotion in response to what is being said.

__ Ask for feedback from the speaker about whether or not you understand what they have communicated.

__ Note what information is left out.

Effective team players and leaders listen to understand, not speak to be understood. Listen more and talk less. Your coworkers will listen to you when they perceive you are open to their contributions to you or your organization.

To find out more about your own communication style, Assess Your Communication Style.

Also check out the list of Recommended Reading.

Other Resources
About the Author
Contact Ellen

Assess your Communication Style
How To Stop The Cycle of Endless Arguing
How Well Do You Listen?
Your Words Are Your Most Powerful Tool To Use Carefully
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