Are You Listening to Understand or Merely Reply?

by Marcus

Ineffective communication, whether in business or in life, presents the biggest obstacle to any successful relationship. And it all begins with listening. Not truly listening results in anger, distrust, frustration, and resentment. It leads to dysfunctional businesses, disgruntled team members, and unsatisfied clients as well as failed marriages and disassociation with loved ones.

Consider your professional and personal relationships to understand the importance of communication. In those relationships you find most rewarding, fulfilling, and successful, you feel heard and understood. Communication is more effective than not. Conversely, consider your relationships that are the most unsettling — those that cause the most dissatisfaction, frustration, and suffering and are the least successful. You probably don’t feel heard. Communication is so limited in its effectiveness, the relationship suffers.

Here are some important questions to ask yourself: Do you like it when others truly listen to you? Do you have greater rapport and trust with those who listen to you? Do you feel respected, acknowledged, and valued when others really listen to what you’re saying? In other words, do you like it when others care enough to be present with you in their listening? Are you listening to others the way you want them to listen to you? If not, why not?

Effective listening constitutes one of the most fundamental and powerful communication tools of all. The first step to improvement is to have a good understanding of what you can do or stop doing to become a better listener. From here, the ill effects of your ineffective listening are all but eliminated. Interactions become more successful and pleasant as you learn to stop talking or thinking and develop the habit of truly listening.

Several sabotaging behaviors, or blockers, limit our listening abilities. These include:

  • Rehearsing — Your attention focuses on preparing what you’ll say next.
  • Placating —You agree with everything the other person says in an effort to get along, be liked, or because you aren’t truly listening.
  • Derailing — You derail the train of conversation with sudden changes to the topic or jokes as you become bored or uncomfortable.
  • Judging — You judge the person with whom you’re communicating and use negative labels to do so.
  • Sparring — You look for things over which to disagree.
  • Multitasking – You fail to pay attention as you split your time and attention between two or more things.
  • Dreaming or Drifting — Your attention drifts to anything other than the conversation — a vacation you want to take, things you need to do or an issue in your life.
  • Identifying — You use the stories of others as a reference point to tell your own at the expense of theirs.
  • Being right — You focus on arranging information, saying things or acting in ways so as to not be wrong.
  • Advising — You believe you have the solution to a problem and offer advice rather than truly listen.

Do you engage in any of these listening blocks? Some of them? All of them? Not sure?

Participants in my communication trainings are astounded to learn how much they unknowingly sabotage their professional and personal relationships by not listening. Reversing this and becoming someone who truly listens is simple once you learn how.

Stephen R. Covey — the author, educator, and speaker — said this: “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand. They listen with the intent to reply.”

Yet, we all want to be heard and understood.

Successful relationships depend on the ability of those involved to effectively communicate. In reality, most of us aren’t taught how to communicate with the intention of understanding, building relationships, and creating solutions. In business, not listening effectively causes dysfunction and could be the difference between success and failure.

Developing the powerful habit of truly listening is the first step in becoming an effective communicator and creating more successful professional and personal relationships. If you endeavor to build a successful business or increase the effectiveness of your team, begin with the foundational competency of listening.

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This article was written for and published in collaboration with The Business Times newspaper.


Marcus Straub

Author Marcus Straub

Marcus Straub is Founder and CEO of Life Is Great!™ (LIG) Coaching and Consulting, Inc. based in Grand Junction, Colorado.

Serving individuals of all ages and companies of all sizes, in locations across the country and around the world, Marcus specializes in the development of customized programs tailored to meet the unique goals of each individual client. Purposefully created to guide those involved toward unprecedented personal, professional, and organizational growth, Marcus has become well-known for his straightforward approach and systematic techniques.