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A Listening Anagram

Rearrange the letters in “listen” and what does it spell?

Can you remember a time when you were taught how to listen? Few of us can, even though listening represents almost 50% of the time we spend communicating. Think about it: You spent several years learning how to talk, all your elementary school years learning how to read, and an impressive 12 years or more learning how to write. Is it too late to learn how to listen? Not only is it not too late, developing your listening skills will dramatically increase your sense of fulfillment, your awareness of others, and your ability to lead.

Our self-awareness, empathy, frame of reference, assumptions, attitudes, beliefs, and personality all have an impact on listening. We listen through your own unique “filters” and, for the most part, are unaware of them. We hear only those things that fit your own frame of reference, and we tend to block everything else.

At the lowest level of listening, we may fake attention or even ignore the speaker. We listen only enough to get our chance to talk. Unfortunately, many of us listen at this level most of the time. When we move up the “listening continuum,” we become an active listener. As an active listener we focus on the other person, detach from your agenda, and listen for understanding. We show patience, may take notes, and can recap what we have heard. We are aware of body language and tone of voice.

Although at this level we may listen logically, we are more focused on content than with feelings, and we stay emotionally detached from the conversation. Only as an engaged listener do we get outside our own frame of reference and try to understand the other person’s context.

As an engaged listener we stay open not only to their thoughts, but also to their feelings. We understand the impact we are having, and we adjust your behavior accordingly. We listen from your heart and practice “whole body listening.” Consider for a moment the impact engaged listening would have on your direct reports, your next level manager, and especially on your family.

We can aspire to yet a higher level of listening on the continuum – being an intuitive listener. When we are listening intuitively, we listen through physical sensations, through emotions, and through images and symbols…and we trust our insights and perceptions. Our intuition allows us to process more information subconsciously than we could ever do consciously, and we do it instantly. Our intuition is frequently right; it is our interpretation of our intuition that may be wrong.

What are the barriers or pitfalls to effective listening? We have mentioned several barriers already – being unaware of frame of reference, either yours or others; being inattentive to nonverbal cues such as tone of voice or body language; having different personalities; or hearing only what you want to hear, not what is really being said. In addition, being in a distracting environment, having intense time pressures, or being under stress can have a dramatic impact on your listening level.

Finally, our culture tends to falsely believe that speaking represents action and power, while listening connotes inaction and weakness. This limiting belief holds us back from truly listening. Listening is powerful, and silence is a significant ally to becoming a more engaged listener. As a culture, we are uncomfortable with silence, and we rush to fill it. Stop, take time to think, and consider your response. Remember, silence makes you a more effective listener.

Rearrange the letters in “listen” and what does it spell? S I L E N T.


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