May 29, 2018

Habit 5: Five Poor Listening Skills

This is an activity I have done when training Peacekeepers or working with adolescents on how to listen. To understand someone, you must listen to them. Surprise! The problem is that most of us don’t know how to listen. Where/when do we teach this skill?

Role play each of the following listening styles:

  1. Spacing out is when someone is talking to us, but we ignore them because our mind is wandering off in another galaxy.
  2. Pretend listening is more common. We still aren’t paying much attention to the other person, but at least we pretend we are by making insightful comments at key junctures like, “yeah”, “uh-huh”, “cool”, “sounds great”, etc.
  3. Selective listeningis where we pay attention only to the part of the conversation that interests us. For example, someone is talking, and you zone out but hear the word “army” and then tell her how you are interested in the army, but haven’t heard the rest.
  4. Word listeningoccurs when we actually pay attention to what someone is saying but we listen only to the words, not to the body language, the feelings, or the true meaning behind the words. For example, your friend asks, “What do you think of Jeremy?” and you say he’s cool, but she wants to know if you think he likes her.
  5. Self-centered listening happens when we see everything from our own point of view. Instead of standing in someone else’s shoes, we want them to stand in ours. For example, we say, “We know exactly how you feel.” Assuming they feel exactly like we do. It’s judging, or advising, or probing. It’s like a competition, a one-up-manship.
  6. Genuine listeningThere is a higher form of communication called “Genuine Listening” which does three things: listen with your eyes, heart and ears. 93% of our message is tone and body language. Only 7% is our words.

For example, try saying the following sentence by emphasizing a different work in three different ways:

  • I didn’t say you had an attitude problem.
  • I didn’t say you had an attitude problem.
  • I didn’t say you had an attitude problem.