Listening is one of the toughest skills to master yet is one of the most important skills we need to develop as we move to more demanding roles and relationships. You cannot have leadership presence without hearing what others have to say.
Judith E. Glasser, organizational anthropologist and executive coach, has written a wonderful book “Conversational Intelligence – about the art of conversations and the critical element of listening.” She has identified some interesting listening habits, which I wanted to share with you.
- Noise-in-the-attic listening. This is when we sit silently while others talk, we appear to be listening; inwardly, however, the talk in our head takes over. We are in fact listening to the noise in the attic—disengaged from the speaker’s ideas and involved in our own mental processes. Our self-talk becomes more prominent in our minds than what our ears hear.
- Face-value listening. We think we are hearing facts, when we are really hearing interpretations. When we have a conversation, we bring our own interpretations to the words we hear. We try to match what we think and know with what we are hearing. We are not checking to see whether the words explain what they purport to explain. This explains why people can differ dramatically in their perceptions. Many of us hear what’s in our heads, rather than listening to connect with what others are really saying.
- Positional listening. This listening is focused around your role – what ever it may be. And this highly partial listening can lead to faulty assumptions. When we are fearful about our role, or when there is high uncertainty about the future, our mind seeks clues assuring we have a secure place in our tribe. Our fears about where we belong in the pack influence how we listen, how we feel, and how we engage with others.
For example, a leader might listen to her president’s annual report to determine whether her division will be growing. What she hears could affect her performance and her relationships with co-workers.
- Navigational listening. This is the art of listening to connect, to partner, and to perform better. Here the listener is paying attention to not only what the speaker is saying, but also to the speaker’s tone of voice, energy, feelings etc. The listener is also paying attention to what is not being said. It is about hearing between the lines and tuning into what is really being said. It is the most powerful form of listening and allows the listener to really connect with the speaker.
Good listening requires attention to the meanings others are bringing to life.
In your life, there are times when you will listen at all these levels. It is inevitable; you are human. But by becoming more aware of your listening habit, you can take steps to move yourself to the deepest level of listening and connecting. By understanding what can shut down your listening, you can improve your listening skill to enable you to align people, decisions and agendas.
So which habit gets in the way of your listening?