The McKinsey Quarterly had a guide to better listening recently. This is an area of interest to me because I am often annoyed by people who don’t listen well.
You know the poor listener types:
The pseudo listener nods the head a lot, and adds insincere comments like ‘How interesting’ and ‘I see’ because they are too busy thinking about their own opinions and what they want to say instead of listening to you.
The continual talker/ non listener never shuts up. Continually interrupts conversations. Loves the sound of their own voice.
The critic misses clues to your underlying feelings because they are too busy looking for facts.
The ‘I’m in a hurry’ listener never slows down long enough to look you in the eyes and find conversation. Talks and listens while doing other jobs.
The bored listener also doesn’t look you in the eyes. Other body language stresses that he/she refuses to give their full attention. They would rather talk to someone else as their eyes scan the room behind you.
The aggressive listener has contempt for others’ ideas. In meetings and conversations this person is usually waiting to interrupt/jump in over you and point out mistakes- usually interrupting conversations and making the speaker feel inferior.
The guide made three simple suggestions for people that, if followed, would reduce the number of poor listeners.
1 SHOW RESPECT
2 KEEP QUIET
3 CHALLENGE ASSUMPTIONS
All three are crucial cornerstones of good listening. The first two are succinct and self explanatory. The third needs a little further comment.
To listen well we have to be prepared to challenge long-held and cherished assumptions. Then there is a miraculous world of new possibilities.
This takes real effort because it flies against human nature. We need to force ourselves to shelve prejudices and assumptions and shake up our thinking…and become better listeners.