So, if we show you two photos, one of Miley Cyrus and the other of Justin Bieber, two celebrities who are remarkably and androgynously alike, you would be able to tell who is who and make a correct identification, right? Now if only life was so easy that it let you spot the good egg, from the bad one – be it as a partner, a friend or even the choice of a job or a house.
Basically, life offers us many challenges and while it’s relatively easy to pass judgment on others, we very often err while self-introspecting. Most of us don’t consider listening as big an art as talking and because of this, a lot of us would call ourselves good listeners. But is that really true? Are we good listeners at all?
Identifying Good Listening vs. Bad Listening
So, do you think that you are a good listener? Well then, let’s check these identifying mannerisms of good listening vs. bad listening and check where we all can stand to improve…
Hidden Meaning vs. Literal Meaning
A lot of communication lies in the tone and emotional cues, as well as the body language of the talker – and not just the words. To be an effective listener, you need to take in the literal meaning of course, but also read in between the lines. Listen for the tone, for the emotion in the voice, and look for the non-verbal cues as well. Empathize with the talker, find common points and ask questions if you need answers.
Understanding vs. Gaining Information
We may often listen to get answers to a question. But effective listening goes hand in hand with understanding, and not just with the intent of gaining information. Many times, when we ask pointed questions, we skim-listen to the reply but don’t really understand the situation and stop listening after we think we have got the answer. You may look as if you are attentive and getting in every word but frankly your mind is wandering and you’re not really in the situation at all…
Asking for Clarifications vs. Making Assumptions
Good listening means that you ask questions when you have a doubt, and not make any assumptions about the issues. Don’t let your thoughts or doubts come into the picture, and don’t let any of that color the current conversation. Clarify, once, twice or thrice even if you have to, to make sure all your doubts are cleared by the correct person and not just by your presumptions.
Listening to Digest vs. Listening to Respond
So many times it happens that we listen to something, only to be able to respond to it. Rather, while the other person is still talking – we stop listening and begin to formulate our reply – and often miss so much of what we were supposed to listen to, process and understand. Stephen R Covey right said, “Most people listen with the intent to respond, not with the intent to understand.” If your mind is moving ahead to the response and not listening, well, you lose out.
Letting the Speaker Finish vs. Interrupting the Speaker
We may not always agree with what is being said, and may even have valid counterpoints – but all of us need to have the manners and the patience to let the talker finish first. Interrupting the talker, speaking out of turn and just generally being ill-mannered will make you miss out on listening and understanding the point being made as well as disturb the rest of the audience’s listening. Let the speaker finish, and then politely intercede to make your point.
Boldly Agree To Disagree vs. Bow Down To Authority
Conversely, not speaking up when you strongly feel different will also go against effective listening. Listening to it not just hearing – it’s about hearing, then understanding and processing the thing you have heard, and finally forming an opinion about it. If you have patiently listened to and understood all that was being said and have a very strong point or interjection to make – you must speak up. Bowing down to authority at this point will make you harbor a lingering resentment towards yourself, yet again making you miss the rest of the talk or conversation since your emotions come into play. Once the speaker has finished, stand up and make your point boldly – you many agree to disagree at the end but at least you have said your piece.
Consistently Listen to One Topic Vs. Getting Bored Too Easily
As much as it is good for a speaker to be able to talk about one topic consistently and interestingly, it is even better for a listener to be able to listen about the same topic with full concentration. Only if you listen to what is being said with full concentration will you be able to glean the gist of it all.
Listening With an Open Mind vs. Listening With Too Firm a Belief
To listen and listen well, you have to have an open mind to what is being said, even if it is going against your core beliefs. Like we mentioned above, you can choose to hear out the speaker patiently and then speak up or counter-argue the point you cannot digest – but at least listen with an open mind. You might end up learning something new after all.
Listening With Fair Balance & Empathy vs. Listening Judgmentally
We very often tend to view the world with colored glasses – often shaded in hues of our beliefs, prejudices, and resentments. When we are listening to someone, we should listen not only with an open mind but also an open heart and keep our judgments and belief system aside. Do not start taking what is being said as an affront or insult – the person who is talking has a right to his own beliefs. Listen fairly, let the person finish and then if you want, you can choose to make your own point – without trash talking the speaker in turn.
Show Interest in the Speaker vs. Appear Bored & Tired of the Speaker
The person addressing the audience – be they experienced talkers or newbies – has a certain set of trepidation and wants to make sure that the audience is interested in what they have to say. If you appear bored, listless and distracted while they are talking – you are not only reducing their morale but also curbing their speaking enthusiasm and affecting your own listening skills as well. Be active, be alert and be interested in what they are saying to get the best out of them and your listening skills as well.
Paying Attention to Key Meaning vs. Missing the Meaning of It All
Many people hear everything sometimes, but miss the meaning of it all but not paying attention to the key points, being too busy analyzing every little thing, formulating their own replies, getting blinded by the speaker’s charm, making notes etc… There will be times the speaker will verbally or physical emphasize a few things – pay attention to the meaning behind it all instead of focusing on the decoration…
Making Sure the Understanding is Correct vs. Letting Confusion Mar the Listening
Finally, as we have been stressing – the difference between hearing and listening lies in the understanding of things. Make sure you have grasped everything that is being said, raise your hand and ask pointed questions if need be and only then move on to the next point. Hearing everything and understanding only a little means your listening wasn’t up to the mark at all.
So pay attention to what is being said and concentrate on the meaning of the words instead of just hearing them – switch off those phones and keep micro-conversations at bay. Hear and understand for effective listening…
|||^||TCB Devito: Communication Strategies|
|||^||Huffington Post: Are You Listening Or Just Reloading|
|||^||Facebook: Positivity Vibrations|
|||^||Business2Community: How to Truly Listen to Someone, Instead of Listening to Respond|
|||^||Info Please: Speaking & Listening Skills|
|||^||Forbes: 10 Ways To Brave Up & Speak Up|
|||^||Stack Exchange: How To Avoid Mind Drifting While Listening|
|||^||Boundless: Be An Open Minded Listener|
|||^||Lolly Daskal: The Heart of Listening|
|||^||Magnolia Etiquette: Show Respect to the Speaker|
|||^||Boundless: Components of a Speech|
|||^||Key Differences: Differences Between Hearing & Listening|