On my way . . .

A speaker at a conference posed a question to us all:

“Are you listening to hear, or listening to speak?”

There were many here, here murmurings in the room as this comment seemed to land appropriately with many of us.

As someone who, modesty aside, is good at asking questions of others and finding out all about them and their lives (or in a work situation, as much as I reasonably need to know), I sometimes wonder if some people I’m trying to have a conversation with are simply listening to speak.

You know the sort of thing:

Them: What sort of week have you had at work?

Me: Oh, really good thanks.

Them: Hmm.  Mine’s been really challenging.  I did X . . . spoke to Y . . . Z happened.

15 minutes later, you’ve got no further than getting out your opening sentence which you offered as a gentle lead in, hoping that they might ask, “oh, that’s interesting … what made it so good?” or “tell me something about your life because surely mine can’t be that fascinating that you want to hear only about me for the next several hours that we’re together?

Richard Mullender wonderfully identifies 4 modes of listening that help to put listening skills into a little more perspective, especially when they get in the way of being able to listen to hear.  He calls them: comfirmatory, combative, autobiographic and passive, and in his excellent ebook, “Communication Secrets of a Hostage Negotiator: Dispelling the Myths and Rediscovering the Art of Listening” suggests:

“With passive listening, we really do not care about what is being said. Often we are daydreaming, thinking about anything and everything, other than what the speaker is actually saying. This is the listening mode we use in when we really don’t want to be there . . . This is the worst form of listening, not because it is stopping us from listening, but because we are wasting our time and the time of the person who is talking to us.

If you find yourself in this sort of situation then walk out of the room or find an excuse to leave because you are wasting your life and life is short.”

I couldn’t agree more Mr Mullender.  I’m building up courage as I write . . .



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