Do you hear what I hear?

We don't always wear warnings

There is a good chance that you have ears. It is more than likely you can hear. But are you listening? I often like to relate a lesson I learned early in life. My father an avid reader would oft sit and read while my mother, a non-reader puttered around the house. My mother talked continually as she went about her tasks. We were on some family outing and my mother related an event happening and my father said, ‘you didn’t tell me that’ and my mother responded with ‘yes I did, I was in the kitchen and you were on the couch when I told you’. To which my father replied ‘Oh, well, just because you are talking doesn’t mean I am listening’.

This is a classic example of poor communication. So how can we communicate better at work, with a boss, or co-workers? How can we be in touch at home, with our spouse, or children (or even parents)?

Here are some steps to follow (as the speaker):

  1. If you have something you want to say, be sure your audience is engaged with you. If your addressees are engaged with the television, a book or some other distraction; your message has a good chance of falling on deaf ears. Find a time to talk without distractions. Make an appointment if you need to in order to get full attention.
  2. Keep your message simple and concise. Mixing in a lot of different or irrelevant facts will only confuse the listener.  If you get lost and forget your point or the purpose of the interaction the audience has no hope of receiving your message.
  3. The message should be simple. Using a very unique code or unconventional method for delivering the message may seem like it will make you superior. However, the reality is that your listener may not understand or interpret the code in the same way.
  4. And lastly, be willing to hear the other side without paying too much attention to how the other person is taking the message, or how the person might react. If you are attempting to ‘read’ the other person while you are delivering your message, you run the risk of misreading and creating a misunderstanding.

Here are some steps to follow (as the listener):

  1. Be aware of you job as the listener. You are to listen…the end! It is tempting to be so interested in what you have to say that you listen mainly to find an opening to get the floor. Or you are so busy formulating and listening to your own rebuttal to hear what the speaker is saying.
  2. Do not listen through your own personal beliefs about what is being said. If you believe you already know what the speaker is going to say, and have formed an opinion on that information, then you will not be able to hear what they really have to say.
  3. If anything is unclear, ask for clarification. Never Never Never just assume you know the answer to any ambiguity. You will never go wrong by asking and having both parties absolutely clear on a meaning or phrase.
  4. And lastly, do not be a parrot. A rule of active listening is to say what you heard back to the speaker. However, I would caution you to be clear on what you are saying. Often by repeating the speaker’s message, you assume the role of agreement. Make sure you not only agree but are willing to proceed with any statements you make. For example, you may say to your boss, ‘you want me to do the job of 10 people for less pay’ without further discussion this statement seems to imply agreement. By contrast you might say ‘What I hear you asking is that I do the job of 10 people for less pay, is that correct?’ In both instances you have used active listening skills however, in the latter; there is no assumption of agreement.

I'm ALL Ears

If we don’t address the appropriate elements we will not be very effective, and can actually make the situation worse. For example: If your wife is telling you about her hurt feelings and you focus on the facts of the situation and don’t acknowledge her feelings, she will likely become even more upset.

There is a real distinction between merely hearing the words and really listening for the message. When we listen effectively we understand what the person is thinking and/or feeling from the other person’s own perspective. It is as if we were standing in the other person’s shoes, seeing through his/her eyes and listening through the person’s ears. Our own viewpoint may be different and we may not necessarily agree with the person, but as we listen, we understand from the other’s perspective. To listen effectively, we must be actively involved in the communication process, and not just listening passively.

For today, practice listening. At Work. At Home. With Friends. With Co-workers. With Everyone you encounter.

Listen

 

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