Brighton Leadership Group

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7 Deadly Sins of Listening

How do you define listening?   

Listening is an active mental process where we extract information from sound. Unfortunately, most of the training that is offered teaches us more about speaking than listening.

Here are 7 bad habits that interfere with listening:

  1. Distractions. This is something you do internally like daydreaming, making mental lists or planning. It causes you to take your focus off the person speaking. People speak at about 140-180 words per minute, while a listener can comprehend an average of 400 words per minute. The brain wants to fill in the blanks. To help yourself concentrate, try taking notes, using a fidget, or doodling.
  1. Judging. Instead of evaluating what is said in order to agree or disagree, practice openness. A skillful active listener can receive a message without the need to judge. Judging creates barriers and blockages between people. Be open and curious about what is said, in the interest of exploring and learning.
  1. Assuming. We bring filters to listening, like values, beliefs, attitudes, and expectations. Become more conscious about the filters you are listening through. Ask clarifying questions and seek to understand. There is always more to the story if you take the time to really hear.
  1. Preparing. Too often, our own agenda gets in the way of being a good listener. Listening to respond rather than to understand limits our learning. Set an intention to concentrate your attention on the person speaking as if it was the first time you met them.
  1. Interrupting. We know that cutting someone off mid-sentence is not polite. If you frequently find yourself starting to talk before someone is finished talking, consider what distraction is taking your attention away from the person. Is your pattern of interrupting unconsciously demonstrating disrespect?
  1. Bad Body Language. Use your body language to communicate that you are listening. Whether it’s eye contact, pointing your body toward the person or non-verbal affirmation like head nodding, it all creates a visual impression on the speaker. If you stare off into space, tap your fingers or constantly readjust your position, consider what you are communicating to the person speaking.
  1. Filling the silence. Silence is a powerful tool for a deep conversation. Silence creates space for both the speaker and receiver to reflect. When you to rush to “fill” the silence, you risk interrupting a breakthrough thought that is ready to emerge. If silence is difficult for you, encourage the other person to continue by asking open questions such as “What do you make of this?” or “Tell me more about what happened.” Consider practicing being silent for 3 – 5 minutes each day, and don’t miss a good chance to shut up!

When you talk, you are repeating what you already know.But if you listen, you may learn something new.– Dalai Lama

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