Improve Communication with Better Listening Skills
We have always known that success depends on people communicating effectively. Good communication isn't only about speaking well but also about listening well. Only by listening effectively can you respond appropriately in any situation.
Of all the types of communication we use daily between talking, reading, writing and listening, we spend the most time on listening. It's 40% of all the time we spend communicating. We get less training in listening than in any other kind of communication. We get a couple years of learning around talking (mostly as babies). Then we get 6-8 years of training for reading through elementary and middle school. Then we continue to get through high school with emphasis on writing well. But we get hardly any education at all on LISTENING. No wonder we are so bad at it!
Yet listening is one of the most important communication skills we have and communication with others is essential.
For instance, we know:
- You can not NOT communicate. We're communicating verbally or nonverbally all the time.
- Whenever contact is made, some form of communication does occur.
- The true meaning of something is not in the words we use, it's in how people interpret the words.
- Yet the meanings can not be transferred. We can't just put a computer file directly in someone's head. We can ony send the words. So listening becomes a critical skill if we are going to fully understand the meaning someone is trying to send us.
The Personal Listening Profile® will help you to understand how to listen more effectively in a variety of situations. It is useful in many applications, including customer service, presentation skills, conflict resolution and team building.
Research shows that people approach listening with different purposes and with different motivations related to that purpose. We all have our own preferred or most natural approach to listening. The Personal Listening Profile will give you the insight into the different listening approaches of others and how you can adapt your approach to understand and communicate better.
The five Listening Approaches are:
- Appreciative - You are more likely to listen if you feel inspired by what you are hearing and/or if you are enjoying yourself. You’re not necessarily interested in the details when you are using Appreciative Listening. It’s more the overall impression of the experience.
- Empathic - This style is often a sounding board to others. They offer suppor tand encouragement to others. They focus on the feelings revealed by the person they are listening to. If you are often approached by people who need to confide or vent about something, you will know that's you! This style isn't necessarily interested in giving advice. They are most interested in really hearing and understanding the feelings someone else is expressing.
- Comprehensive - A comprehensive listener can recognize key points between one message and another even when the speaker is disorganized. They can also recognize when someone doesn't understand what is being said and can re-explain clearly in their own words. An example of Comprehensive Listening would be to say: This is like the XYZ project but with this change.
- Discerning - This style wants to get all the information and takes copious notes, sometimes on the computer so they can capture it all. Distractions can be very annoying when using this listening approach. An example would be when other people are talking in class and you are trying to get all the notes.
- Evaluative - When listening with an evaluative approach, the listener will not automatically accept what is being said as true just because an expert says it. They may "mentally argue". If they disagree, they will quit listening. They will also be very skeptical if the speaker is overly enthusiastic about something. This approach is very helpful when evaluating something and making a decision about it.
It's important to adapt your listening approach to the needs of the situation. For example, if a close friend is sharing their concerns and problems with you, you would want to be empathic and not evaluative. You have probably experienced the frustration of someone giving you unsolicited advice when you mostly just want them to empathize with you! The opposite can also be true. There are times when you really need to evaluate a new product or service and there's no need to empathize.
When you recognize the need in any situation, and use the appropriate listening approach, you can build relationships, make better decisions and enhance teamwork. It all starts with effective listening!
For More Information
Download a copy of our whitepaper "A Guide to Interpersonal Communication Skills at Work". We are not all the same, we don't all approach things the same way. When you learn about how to communicate better with the different behavioral styles, the end result is you can better lead people and have stronger relationships with others.