Are You Really Listening?

I suspect most of us think we are good listeners, but are we really listening to what others are saying. There are several things that are critical to being a good listener. In a prior blog (see Are You Listening) some issues associated with listening were discussed. Let’s expand on these


Everyone makes assumptions. To some extent this can be helpful, but when it comes to listening this can be a handicap. Consider these assumptions that we all are guilty of from time-to-time:

  1. Assuming we know the other person’s presuppositions (their assumptions)
  2. Thinking we know where they are going with their comments
  3. Assuming they are not as knowledgeable as us
  4. Assuming the subject is irrelevant or doesn’t apply to us

These are just a few examples of how we harm our listening by making assumptions.

Chomping at the Bit to Respond

You’ve probably had the experience of trying to listen to someone’s position or suggestions and found yourself mentally formulating a response. This is a hard habit to break, but as long as we do this we are not really listening.

Failing to Understand the Context

Often it can be easy to think we know the context in which someone formed their thoughts. It is important for us to realize that people often know some things we don’t that will influence their thoughts profoundly. We might be surprised if we took the time to explore their context and background and end up feeling the way the man in the picture below does.

surprised listener

Clarity was discussed in the other posting, but it bears repeating. Make a brief note of the things we will need clarified. Avoid interrupting (Yeah, I know this one is hard to do). Observe everything about how the other person is communicating, including facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language in addition to the actual words they use. Even here we can get in trouble by assuming we have read the other clues correctly.

These things will help us to be really listening. Yet, even then it critical to seek clarity on things of which you are not sure. Try to communicate back to the other person what you believe they have said and meant. Once you both have the same understanding of the thoughts they expressed, then you can have your discussion.

If you are anything like me, you probably have to be deliberate about practicing these ways to improve the ability to listen carefully and improve communication.

If you want to know more, contact AimCFO – Contact

As always, your comments are welcomed.


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