Isn’t it funny, in school, when we think of the three “R’s,” only one starts with an “R.” (Reading, writing, arithmetic) Isn’t it funny, when we think about Communication in the organization, it’s always about talking, presenting and writing.
- “How many of you, at some point in school, learned how to write?” All hands go up.
- “And how many of you, at some point in school, learned how to read?” All hands go up.
- “And how many of you, at some point, took a class in debate or public speaking?” Many hands go up.
- “And how many of you have take some formal class of instruction in listening skills?” Few hands go up.
Let’s examine different levels of listening.
- Level I – Ignoring (my wife says, I must be good at this, as much as I practice)
- Level II – Pretending to listen (my wife says my skill definitely exceeds the ignoring level)
- Level III – Selective listening (I always hear the part about the score of the football game, yet miss the part about taking out the garbage)
- Level IV – Attentive listening (finally, some serious listening happening here)
It is only with Level IV that we are able to make headway to improve the quality of communication. Yet, most of our attentive listening consists of eye contact, some positive body language and focus on the other person’s lips, waiting… waiting… waiting… for them to finally take a breath, so we can break in and… respond. Most attentive listening is listening to respond.
To improve the quality of communication, attentive listening must move to a deeper level, listening for understanding. It is only at this level that we begin to truly understand the other person. Listen for understanding.
Yet, take it one level deeper and you will see exponential benefits from your conversations. Listen for discovery. Discovery is that intersection of the other person’s direction and your direction. That point of intersection is communication magic. It’s like that common ground you find when you discover that both parties grew up in Texas. The conversation changes, a new level of trust occurs. The real discovery, however, the true payoff, is the discovery of intersection in the future. In what direction is the other person headed? What direction are you headed? Where, in the field, will you meet up? Listen for discovery.