On Listening

On Listening

Author and Professor David W. Augsburger says, “Being heard is so close to being loved, that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.”

Recently I had a difficult conversation with another person. I wanted to listen, to care and to respond in ways that were helpful to both of us. Yet, as I experienced some of my beliefs and values being challenged and judged, I could feel my annoyance mounting. When the conversation ended I was frustrated. I didn’t feel heard. Nor did I listen well.

I had the opposite experience when I told a friend about these conversations. He listened well. I felt heard. I left the conversation feeling affirmed, valued and inspired.

In Chapter 3 of Good Leaders Ask Great Questions, John Maxwell identifies three kinds of listening:

  • Internal listening – this is the lowest level of listening. It is focused entirely on ourselves. We hear information from others, but we only consider it in terms of how we are affected by what the other person says.
  • Focused listening – our focus changes from ourselves to the person speaking. We hear not only their words, but also their emotions, facial expression, posture and so on.
  • Global listening is the highest form of listening. It goes beyond the speaker and the listener. It takes into account action, inaction and interaction of the people involved and also the environment in which the conversation is being conducted.

Good leaders practice global listening. They are not afraid of silence. They pay attention to who talks more and who talks less. They notice the impact on others of what is being said and done. They then adjust their communication and behaviors accordingly.

What kind of listener are you?

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