I have been into listening the last little while. It is something that I need to get better at. I see it as a life quest to be a great listener. At the very least, it lets my kids know there is hope for me.
There are many things that get in the way of listening. In order to become a more effective listener, you should be aware of these barriers, many of which are bad habits. Bad habits and barriers to effective listening can include:
- Sympathizing rather than empathizing. Sympathy is not the same as empathy. You sympathize when you feel sorry for the experiences of another; to empathize is to put yourself in the position of the other person.
- You are prejudiced or biased by race, gender, age, religion, accent, and/or past experiences.
- You have preconceived ideas or bias. Effective listening includes being open-minded to the ideas and opinions of others. This does not mean you have to agree but should listen and attempt to understand.
- You make judgments. For example, you judge that a person is not very bright or is under-qualified so there is no point listening to what they have to say.
- Previous experiences. We are all influenced by previous experiences in life. We respond to people based on personal appearances, how initial introductions or welcomes were received and/or previous interpersonal encounters. If we stereotype a person, we become less objective and therefore less likely to listen effectively.
- Preoccupation. When we have a lot on our minds, we can fail to listen to what is being said because we’re too busy concentrating on what we’re thinking about. This is particularly true when we feel stressed or worried about issues.
- Having a Closed Mind. We all have ideals and values that we believe to be correct, and it can be difficult to listen to the views of others that contradict our own opinions. The key to effective listening and more general interpersonal skills is the ability to have a truly open mind – to understand why others think about things differently to you and to use this information to gain a better understanding of the speaker.
While your clients expect knowledge, experience and wisdom from you, the thing they most want is for someone to listen well. Reflect on what I have listed and see if you need to give listening skills a check up.
(Part 1 can be found here.)
Continued success, TF.