“Are you a good listener?” Most of us would say, “Yes, of course!” But what does that mean, really? For some, it means, “I never interrupt when someone else is speaking.” For another, “I never forget what someone says.” For still another, “I never check my phone when someone else is speaking.” And today, perhaps, “If I am on a call, I never answer another one.”
If you have been “trained” in listening skills, perhaps you may say, “I always look the person right in the eye while they are talking, lean toward them and nod my head so they know I am listening to them,” or, perhaps, “I make encouraging comments like, ‘I see, go on, or mm hm – tell me more.’ “
What other behaviors can you identify in yourself and others that might indicate someone is listening?
Would it surprise you to know that different authors, scientists and studies have identified multiple kinds of listening? One defines sixteen (16) different types of listening! Others only three (3), and everything in between!
How then, when experts have identified multiple types of listening, can we possibly know if we are “good” listeners or not? I would suggest that, perhaps unless we are professional listeners, that the “type” of listening does not particularly matter! What matters? In my opinion, what matters is that you can hear the message/meaning of what the other person is saying! This may include verbal and non-verbal information, so actual, effective, listening may include some intuition as well as what your ears hear.
It is my view that sometimes we are good listeners and sometimes we could be better listeners and sometimes we are actually not listening at all (at least, I find that to be true for me!)
We will be exploring this more in the future. For now, to begin to improve your listening skills, should you chose to, simply begin to pay attention. When you are listening to someone, are you really paying attention, or are you distracted and part of your attention is somewhere else, are you simply going through the motions of listening without really hearing what the other person’s message is? Something else to consider – do you listen differently to your boss than to your spouse than to your children than to your colleagues than to your clients than to your patients than to your teachers than to your students…?
Sue is a Master Life Coach specializing in working with groups to release past trauma and move them forward in life. Sue has nearly 30 years of experience as a bodyworker working with mind-body connections, including visualization and dialogue along with hands-on bodywork, to release emotional trauma in the body and mind. She has worked with infants, children, adults and families in individual and group settings. Sue is known locally as, “the therapist’s therapist.” Her first book is titled, "Muscle Energy Technique Made Easy for Healthcare Professionals".