We’ve heard of leadership styles and communication styles. Have you ever wondered about your listening style? Most self-assessments do not measure how we listen. Yet, we all recognize how important listening is to communication. Many people say that listening ranks much higher than actual discourse ability.
When I created the Say It Just Right model of communication, I included style analysis. For people to communicate well with one another, they need to not only understand their own style preferences, but the style preferences of the other person. Nonetheless, I considered communication style without considering listening style. The more I work with the model and tweak it, the more I realize that listening style plays as important a role in our communication.
So, how can we determine our listening style? Just like the best way to learn your leadership or communication style is by observation, the same is true with listening. Furthermore, if you tend to communicate boldly, you’ll tend to be a bold listener. Hints about the way you listen exist within your personality. Here are some examples. See if you see yourself described below.
Four styles of listening:
1. Compassionate Listener. This person stops whatever he is doing, turns, faces the communicator and gives that person complete attention. The Compassionate Listener watches both verbal and nonverbal messages to understand what the speaker is saying beyond the words. This person rarely turns away from a speaker and rarely talks about himself. If you’ve experienced a Compassionate Listener, you know that you walk away from the experience feeling heard, respected and energized.
2. Too Busy to Listen Listener. This person never stops doing things. Their hands busily scurry across the computer key board, straighten up the house, fiddle with the latest puzzle. The Too Busy to Listen Listener is in a state of constant action. They tell others they cannot sit still. Whenever someone approaches them with something to say, this person thinks, “How long will this take?” Sometimes they ask the other person to come back when things slow down (which is when?). They rarely give the other person full attention because they are multi-tasking. Often messages which are shared get confused in the translation.
3. Trees for Forrest Listener. Here’s a listener who hears words and not meaning. They see the non-verbals but do not connect with them. Instead the Trees for Forrest Listener points out, “But, you said you were happy.” The other person may have made that statement with eyes downcast and in a monotone voice. The Trees for Forrest Listener spends time “listening,” but feels relieved when the person finishes whatever they came to say. They tend to point out discrepancies in the conversation–”A few minutes ago you said you wanted more responsibility, but now you say you’re overwhelmed.” Or they try to laser the conversation, “What exactly did you come to talk to me about?”
4. The It’s Me Listener. This person thinks himself a great listener. They love being with other people so they believe they are good at connecting. The problem with their listening is they get in their own way. The It’s Me Listener wants to tell the listener all about themselves and their experiences. Whenever the conversation shifts, the It’s Me Listener changes the subject to whatever happened to him. Usually the conversation ends with each person wondering what the point of the initial discussion was in the first place.
Think about yourself. Are you a Compassionate Listener, a Too Busy to Listen Listener, a Trees for Forrest Listener or an It’s Me Listener. Next time someone says, “Have you got a minute?” pay attention to your own listening style. You may surprise yourself!
To find out how good a listener you are, take this free assessment. http://www.totalcommunicationscoach.com/how-good-a-listener-are-you.htm
Dr. Curtis is CEO of Total Communications Coaching. She's been a leadership consultant for over 20 years and is a communication and business coach. Her clients include executives in a variety of industry. Find out more at TotalCommunicationsCoach.com