The lost art of really listening


Published: 12 Apr 2020

The 'Pure Mechanics' of Communication

Now, more than ever – the art of really listening is pivotal!

Why is great listening important?

 Because if you’re only talking and waiting for your turn to talk you could be missing the real story. Do you know when to stop talking and start listening? The real power and magic in communication lies in that gap. The gap between talking and listening.

Almost all communication fails are either caused by making assumptions instead of checking the facts, or by setting things up to fail instead of succeed because you didn’t get clarity. Clarity comes from great listening. If you listen well, then you know exactly what is happening and you can ask appropriate questions, check information, (not assume) and have all the information you need.

When is great listening useful to you?

  • When you need clarity on an event or situation.
  • When emotions are high.
  • In team or family situations.
  • When people, or the workforce has a viewpoint they want to share.

 What happens if you don’t listen?

  • Supervisors and managers of people who don’t listen naturally distance themselves from their teams.
  • Parents distance themselves from their children, and partners from the important people in their lives.
  • You could be missing the individual make up of differing personalities in your team, friends or family members.
  • You could be missing issues of perceived personal safety and security, or ideas that could benefit the business
  • You could prevent people in your family feeling heard, instead they may feel hurt.
  • You could be missing things that matter to the people in your friend and family group.
  • You could be missing the most vital piece of information.

So, what is good listening?

  • Attending closely to what’s being said, not to what you want to say next.
  • Allowing others to finish speaking before taking a turn
  • Repeating back what you’ve heard to give the speaker the opportunity to clarify what they mean.

 Next level listening?

 Leads the conversation to the benefit of all involved – not just you!

This involves actively seeking to involve the other party in the conversation and acknowledging their input and contribution – not just wait for your turn to talk and say what you want! A key feature of gaining mutual benefit in a conversation is in repeating back what you heard. This helps you remain focused and signals to the team member that they are being heard.

  • Hearing what is said
  • Integrating it into the topic at hand
  • Saying something to move the conversation forward

 Leading the conversation to its logical conclusion means not only listening, but asking the next obvious question and not leaving the thread too soon, if it’s not resolved then keep going. When you ask questions be direct – give directions clearly and unequivocally so people know exactly what to do and when. If you are not sure they understood you – check, and listen to what they say!

  • Ask closed questions when appropriate. YES/NO. These are useful when you just need to check on an issue and need a quick answer.
  • Ask open questions, that can’t be answered yes/no when you are seeking information. Example: What do you think would be the best way to go about this? How are you doing on that project? What went wrong? Open questions stop you making assumptions.
  • Ask personal questions when appropriate:They help you to build a relationship. Keep them general e.g.: Did you have a nice weekend?

If you need information from your team, family members or friends but you are unsure or apprehensive about how to get it, remember others could be feeling the same too. They may be trying to tell you something, or ask you something, so keep the lines of communication open, and check on them often.

Listening carefully will always help when:

  • A solid and consistent connection with someone is desired.
  • A person is in direct conflict with someone else.
  • Someone is concerned about someone’s conduct.
  • Performance has dropped substantially or something did not get done.
  • Someone has a health issue or personal problem.
  • Someone wants advice on something.
  • Someone needs to tell you something important to them.

 Remember to use discretion

Trust is vital to relationships between supervisor and a team member, between partners and family members and friends. Don’t betray their trust or pass on personal information. This is particularly important if you have people you know working in the workforce. Remember to keep your promises – don’t say things you can’t deliver on.


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