HEARING BUT NOT LISTENING
By Bill Southworth
the communication process there are two essential parts to effective
communication: speaking and listening. We seem to focus primarily on
the speaking part, that is, effective delivery of a thought, opinion,
or position on an issue. I see the continued popularity of Toast Masters
and presentation skills workshops among so many of my clients. On the
other hand, listening, as in listening to understand, is the part of
effective communication that receives much less emphasis and yet is the
and future articles will explores some of the bad listening habits
that are barriers to good communication, as well as
good listening habits.
It's important to understand first what's not working with your listening
habit(s) before moving on to change those habits. I think each reader
will be able to identify with at least one of these habits. When you
recognize a habit you will probably have some clues about your part
in ineffective communication. These clues will significantly contribute
to better relationships at home, at work, in your communities, and
is a wide variety of ineffective listening habits that people develop
over the years, often based upon how they have been
early childhood up to the present time. I put listening in quotes
simply because true listening is often not happening. There may be
mechanical process of just hearing words, and it appears that some
form of communication
is taking place. But true listening in which the speaker feels understood
is not happening.
a March 27th column in The Cortez Journal I mentioned that we have
a tendency to exclude people on the basis of
us). These differences may be based on race, gender, age, ethnic
group, nationality, religious belief, political ideology, income
This exclusionary behavior shows up quite clearly in how we listen
to the people we exclude. In some instances we refuse to listen
by simply avoiding them and any contact with their written or spoken
views. We don't want to hear their point of view, let alone try
to understand it. We've already made up our minds about them and decided
them. In this case no communication takes place and therefore there
is no understanding. It's our right to avoid people and opinions
agree with, but I believe that leaves us in a weaker position as
family, community and nation. For example, think of all the times
avoided eye contact or discussing a difficult topic with a family
member or neighbor.
other situations when we can't avoid contact with people we'd rather
exclude, we may listen in a variety of ways.
the Mindset Approach in which we have already decided what we
are going to say, we know we won't agree and nothing they say
will change our minds about their opinions or about them as people.
we use The-Best-Defense-is-a-Good-Offense Approach in which we launch
into stating our position on an issue before the other
ready to express their position. We want the advantage of the
high ground so
we dominate the time and don't care about equal time or a level
playing field for others to express their ideas.
we try the Reload Approach in which we listen just carefully enough
out what to reload to make our own points
during a counterattack
on the other's views. The moment there is some slight break
in the action we jump back in to keep pushing our point.
as a strategy
for a debate or a courtroom, but not well for effective communication.
Like the other approaches, it undermines effective listening
and therefore effective communication.
you use these non-listening tactics?
Do you know others who use them?
How are your communications?
photo: Sarah Renard