Principles for Effective Listening - Part II

In our last blog, we shared Part I of Principles for Effective Listening.  We addressed the “how-to” of listening. If you’ve been practicing the techniques outlined, congratulations! Now that you have started on the path to better listening, here are some barriers and obstacles to watch for – and avoid.

Barriers to Empathic Listening 

• Lecturing, Blaming, Moralizing, Interrupting
• Venting, Defending, Explaining, Questioning
• Generalizing, Disagreeing, Fixing, Reassuring
• Changing the subject, Warning, Pretending

Obstacles to Effective Listening

• Drawing premature conclusions

“I’ve heard this all before; it’s always the same story.”
“Now he’s going to tell me it’s all my fault.” 
“This is the part where she says I shouldn’t go out with my friends.” 
“Here comes the same lame excuse he always uses.”

• Reading into others’ statements

“What he’s really saying is that I can’t handle my job.” 
“What she really means is that I’m a know-it-all.” 
“She said I only got the promotion because the boss likes how I look.” 
“When he asks me what I accomplished today he’s really saying that it doesn’t look like I’m working.”

• Rehearsing your response

“I can, too, handle my job! In fact, I’m the best worker in this office.”
“Just because I’m more intelligent than my co-workers doesn’t mean I’m a know-it-all.”
“I deserved my promotion. It had nothing to do with my appearance. I can’t believe she’s so jealous.”
“I’ll show him what it looks like when I don’t work. I’m calling in sick tomorrow.” 

If you said, “Ouch!” to any of the quotes above, it means you’re growing more aware of potential problem areas. Once these obstacles have been identified, you can more intentionally avoid them as you continue improving your workplace communication.

Additional listening tips…

• Make sure your physical environment is free of noise, movement, and other distractions. It may sound overly simple, but you can hear what someone is saying a lot more clearly when it’s quiet. 

• Keep emotions such as fear, worry or anger in check so they don’t interfere with your concentration and focus. If your emotions are running high, postpone the conversation.

• Take notes to avoid daydreaming, boredom, or fatigue.

And one final observation from business writer Ken Fracaro:  We listen to learn and retain information. If we are speaking, we are not listening or learning anything to add to our sum of knowledge. Therefore, the first step to effective listening is to stop talking!

Live, Work, and Relate Well!

Dr. Todd

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