True listening doesn’t allow you to indulge your senses to give shape, form and colour to what you hear.
Some thought-provoking facts on listening to ponder on: according to a research conducted by Boldtask Labs, we listen at a rate of 125-250 words per minute, but think about 1000-3000 words per minute. Also, astounding findings by psychologists reveal that a person processes only 2% of what they hear and the rest 98% is distorted. Other statistics states that in a typical business day, we spend 45% of our time listening, 30% of our time talking, 16% reading and 9% are writing.
We practice different styles of listening depending on the situation and the nature of the relationship we share with the person we are listening to. Our listening is influenced and defined by our values, beliefs and attitudes. Listening is what the listener does. So, how we listen has a vital bearing on our personality. The style also illustrates the effectiveness of the listener and mastery over listening.
What is your dominant listening style?
Judgemental listening: This style is coloured with your biases and preconceived notions. Often, we have made up our mind, even before the conversation ends or sometimes even before the conversations begins. For instance, it happens when you are dealing with your boss. As you enter the boss’ room, you have already determined the outcome of the meeting. In the case of a husband and wife relationship, when a husband is late, the wife has already concluded the reason for it. The husband’s words are seldom heard and this works vice-versa. In a school setting, most of the times, the teacher admonishes the weak child, for being slow, not completing tasks. Often the need to be heard and understood is ignored. Another example is of a child studying in a school who always finds his math’s class boring because he has made up his mind that his teacher’s pace of teaching is fast for him to understand. Here the child shuts down and completely aborts listening.
Partial listening: Here we may listen to the first sentence or few sentences and then our mind is engaged concocts the responses to what we have only half heard. This creates confusion, tension and apprehension.
Selective listening: This involves choosing to hear words and making meaning that suits oneself. This completely disregards the intention of the other person conveying the message.
Passive listening: Many times, this listening often happens between a mother and child. The mother is usually dishing out a stream of instructions to the child to follow and the child is distracted and disengaged. It also sometimes happens when one is listening to a tiresome lecture, which is uninteresting and uninspiring.
Active listening: This is a powerful form of listening. You are completely engrossed in listening to what the other person is conveying. You are alert, engaged, connected and respect your needs and the needs of the other person. In this listening, you create rapport, understanding and trust. A good example is when a customer service agent listens fully to a query from a customer, and responds to the customer with a satisfying solution and delights the customer. In this style, you are productive and seamlessly efficient. You also experience this form of listening when you are speaking to your mentor, coach or your trusted teacher.
Empathetic listening: This style of listening helps the individuals to grow from the inside. It allows you to hear feelings and emotions. In empathetic listening, the listener puts himself into the shoes of the person he is listening to. The person who is being listened to feels completely accepted, just the way they are. It works 360 degrees, both, the listener and the person being listened to, feels the process cathartic and therapeutic.
Mindful listening: In this listening, you are present in the very moment, there is neither past nor the future, and therefore, it enables you to hear without fear but with hope and clarity. You are relaxed, yet alert and fruitful.
It is essential to observe, reflect and become aware of your dominant listening styles you practice in varied situations and relationships in your lives. As you become aware of your dominant styles, also observe your body language while listening. Ensure you make eye contact, lean forward, keep your hands free, and restrict distracting body movements. Becoming skilled in listening can open new doors of possibilities in relationships; personal and professional. It can bring harmony and well-being. Mastering the art of listening can be a game-changer in your lives. Empower yourself to unlearn, rephrase ‘listening’ and expand. Choose to engage in active listening and inspire others with empathy and mindfulness. Let the magic of listening unfold and transform your lives.
“Listening is a rare happening among human beings. You cannot listen to the word another is speaking if you are preoccupied with your appearance or impressing the other, or if you are trying to decide what you are going to say when the other stops talking, or if you are debating about whether the word being spoken is true or relevant or agreeable. Such matter may have their place, but only after listening to the word as the word is being uttered. Listening, in other words, is a primitive act of love, in which a person gives self to another’s word, making self-accessible and vulnerable to that word.”
– Willliam Stringfellow
A Keeper of the Word