The Art of Listening

April 16, 2010by Ann Dencker

The Art of Listening

Listening, really listening, is a difficult skill to develop, and it’s frequently overlooked. Often when we choose to listen, we listen to judge, to decide if we agree or disagree with another point of view. (We’ve all been cut-off mid-sentence by someone who has wanted to debate a point we’ve only started to make.) Sometimes we choose to listen so that we can gather evidence to validate our own point of view.

When we choose to listen so that we can learn from someone, it takes work and patience. Multiple senses are involved. We hear not only the words, but the intonation behind the words and the verbal points of emphasis. We also listen with our eyes, so we can see when someone feels uncertain or aggressive or determined or content. Listening to learn means fully processing everything that is said, every word, not just the words with which we agree or disagree.

I was recently looking at a past research study in which the well-intentioned researcher asked (paraphrasing greatly here) “how much would you like to use this service that would offer great value and make your life easier?” Was that person really trying to listen to what the consumer wants or were they just looking for evidence to validate their beliefs? Wouldn’t we all benefit from working on our listening skills? What have you done recently to refine your skills?

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