Hey, Listen Up!

by Stew Bolno


"Nature has given us one tongue, but two ears,that we may hear from others twice as much as we speak."

- Epictetus, Greek philosopher (A.D. 55 - A. D. 135)

I am quite certain that coworkers rarely utter the following words: "I don't like that person, she listens too much."

One of the most common complaints that people have about others is that they are ineffective listeners. How do you feel when others:

  • read their e-mail while you are speaking with them?

  • continually interrupt while you are talking?

  • jump ahead without hearing the full information?

  • demonstrate lack of concern through body language such, as looking away or rolling their eyes?

The most effective communicators recognize that a good part of their success is earned as a result of how well they listen. They have discovered the more they listen the more engaged others become in conversations and problem solving sessions. This, in turn, creates an environment in which communication flows and trust is developed.

However, trust from another person must be earned. Therefore, high levels of trust are determined not only by what you say, but also how well you listen to what others say. And listening is much more than hearing. While being hearing impaired is a physical condition, being listening impaired is self-imposed . Effective listening is a choice that requires attention, interpretation, and response to the other individual. All of these behaviors require effort. It is not surprising the Chinese symbol for listening is made up of three symbols: head, ear and heart.

Tips for Learning to Listen:

  • Recognize your role as a listener - If you are too busy to listen attentively, choose another time for the conversation.

  • Select an environment conducive to listening - Find a place with minimal distractions to increase listening effectiveness.

  • Probe for understanding - Ask questions to ensure comprehension and convey interest.

  • Paraphrase key statements and overall themes - This tactic builds alignment in thinking and ensures understanding.

  • Demonstrate a comprehensive approach in your listening style - Learn to focus on big-picture themes, tune into specific facts and instructions, and empathize with the feelings of others.

Now hear this! Effective listening is a skill. Any individual that is truly committed to becoming an effective listener can develop listening skills. If you demonstrate strong listening skills, you might hear the people around you saying, "I really like that person. They're truly a great listener."