Are you listening?

  • 25 June 2020
  • 3 replies

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Did you know that the mere presence of a smartphone on the table, even turned off, significantly reduces your cognitive capacity and brain power? I started thinking about all these meetings with phones and laptops on the table, how much were we really listening?

I recently finished You're Not Listening: What You're Missing and Why It Matters, by Kate Murphy, which explores the art of listening. The author interviews many individuals including Naomi Henderson, Focus Group Moderator, and Barry McManus, CIA Interrogator, to understand what characterizes good / active listening. Being a good listener starts with creating the context for listening, the intent to understand, but is also about asking good questions.

For me, a good listening experience usually means the other person created space for it: the environment isn't too noisy, distractions are set aside... But also that the person did not jump to conclusion, interrupt or volunteered answers before understanding the problem.

I would be curious to hear what makes a good listening experience for you. What are the traits of those you consider good listeners, what do you do make sure you offer a good listener experience to others?

3 replies

Userlevel 2

Thanks for this @Melanie Rohat-Meheust ! I am definitely going to add this one to my list. 

For me personally, I know I am not actively listening like I should be when I find myself processing through my reply in my head while they are still talking. It signals I am more concerned with being understood in the conversation and less on seeking to understand as you mentioned.

Eye contact is also huge. I know personally I tend to believe I am great a multi-tasking and that I can be actively doing something AND listening to someone fully, but I know deep down that’s not reality. 

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This is so true! I have been (am) guilty of the same pitfalls you mention.

There is this quote from Stephen R. Covey that summarizes this so perfectly “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” I haven’t read yet The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, where it is quoted from, but this is absolutely on my list.


Userlevel 3
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@Melanie Rohat-Meheust - I love that quote. Quite often, people fall into the habit of focusing more intently on confirming their reply will make sense that they don’t end up listening.

Way back in high school, our music program director would go to great lengths to explain the difference to us between hearing the music and listening to it. Sure, you can acknowledge that you hear the music (or in this case, what a peer is sharing) but what a difference it makes when you actually listen! 


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