Listening: The Art of Paying Attention

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Let me state the obvious. To listen to other people, you must pay attention to them — which means listening with your eyes as well as your ears. With all the distractions of the modern world — smart phones, computers, and the like — paying attention to what another person is saying has become problematic. Communication on devices such as these does not allow for listening. To truly listen, stop texting, emailing, or posting and instead have a face-to-face conversation.

Meaningful conversations about important topics have better outcomes when they occur face to face. Why? Because 93% of the meaning of a conversation is in physiology and tonality. If all you use are the words, most of the meaning is missed.

Let me share some information from Sandler Training which differentiates how people listen.

There are four styles of listeners, and depending on which style you employ, you may be helping communication or stopping it completely.

“Competitive listeners” may be making eye contact, they may appear to be listening, but they are actually waiting for a break in the conversation to jump in with their own thoughts and ideas. After all, they’re much smarter than you.

“Combative listeners” are similar to competitive, but they don’t wait for a break in the conversation. They appear to not be really listening at all — they may interrupt, talk over you, and, worst of all, not even realize they’re doing it.

“Passive listeners” may really be listening, but they give no indication. They don’t acknowledge points; they don’t ask questions. Their eyes and minds may be wandering away from the conversation.

Finally, “active listeners” are involved with small interjections of acknowledgements and validations. They ask clarifying questions, they paraphrase the speaker’s words back to them to ensure understanding. They’re listening with their whole being and are completely involved in the conversation.

After [reading] the four descriptions, it’s rather obvious which type of listener is the most effective. The question is, what kind of listener are you? If you’re not actively listening in every exchange, how can you improve?

The art of paying attention requires effort, and therefore energy, on your part. To be an active listener requires the ability to put your ego on the shelf and to give up your need to be right. It also requires you to not just wait for your turn to talk. To be a true artist in the art of paying attention you must have a sincere desire to truly understand the other person so all can reach a positive outcome.

The preceding is adapted from From The Board Room To The Living Room by David A. Hiatt ©2018 by Sandler Systems, Inc. and published with permission from Sandler Training.

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