What are the ten basics of listening?

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 18,457
    Communications expert Sean McArdle discusses the importance of becoming an effective listener including an overview of the ten basics of listening.

    Host: What are the ten basics of listening?

    Sean McArdle: The ten basics of listening are way to break the complex idea of listening down, so that you could understand each of the parts. Then, when you are trying to learn how to be an active listener, you can integrate them one at a time until you become an active and effective listener.

    They go something like this. Step one would be to tune in. When you want to listen, you should actually turn towards what you are trying to listen to, who you are trying to listen to and tune your mind in so that you can hear what you are trying to listen to.

    The second step is to determine your role in the listening process. If you are sitting around the water cooler at work, your role might be as a co-worker and you are trying to listen to gossip. If your role is as a parent and you are listening to children talk about something it would be to make sure that you do a good job of parenting by checking out the people that your children has chosen to play with. If your role is as a spouse, it should be to listen so that you gain understanding of what somebody you love wants you to understand. So, that is the second is to determine your role.

    The third is then to measure the value of the communication you are getting. Let me give you an example; let us go back to the water cooler. You are trying to listen to gossip at work and then you realize after a very short time that not only it is a gossip but it is hurtful and it is really a waste of your time. At this point, you say, waste of time and you move on so that you do not invest time in something like listening to gossip.

    However, if your child is trying to tell you something and it seems really important to them and insignificant to you, then you have already cut off the listening process, haven t you? So, when you measure the value, ask yourself this question, Who is it coming from and what do they mean to me? After you have measured the value of the communication then you have to do something that most of us have already done doing. You must suspend your judgment. Suspending judgment really comes down to this. We all have a set of belief systems by which we operate our lives. We believe that some things are important others are unimportant. Hardly enough you could put a coworker in your same seat, ask him the same question and they might think, the opposite things are true. Why it is that? Answer, based on believe systems, we come to the conclusion about the value of things. We believe one thing is a value and another is not. We have measured the value; we have said it is important to us.

    Is it important enough for us to set our beliefs aside to truly suspend judgment and listen without judging in advance? How many times have you sat down and in the listening process, started to judge the person who is communicating immediately? We do it all the time. Oh, that person is a dunce or This one does not make any sense or That is not really all that important to the process. However, everybody has something important to say and if you have already made the decision to listen then suspend your judgment till the listening process is over. Of all the ten steps to listening, this is perhaps the most challenging. After we suspend our judgment then we have to receive the communication. What do I mean by that? Well, the human brain actually stores information circumferentially, we get thought in a linear fashion, one, two, three, four, but the fact is, our brain is like a big beach ball. We store information in these neural networks and they look like spider webs that have a center and go out from there. So, when we are actually receiving communication, stop and think about what is this important to? We have already measured the value; maybe it is important to my work life? So, listen as a worker, listen as a parent, listen as a friend and then you will find that, that information stores itself more rapidly in that neural network where you store that type of information. Otherwise, you could store almost anywhere and just like your hard drive at home, you would actually have to go defrag it later to try and get the full meaning of it.

    Once you have received the message then you have to go to the interpretation process. This says, what does this mean to me? I have listened; I have heard what they have had to say, now I need to put some kind of interpretation on it. I have to give it meaning. Once you give it a meaning, then you will have to go back and check your meaning or the meaning of the message with the person who gave it to you. So, you need to feedback the message. Here is what I heard you say, here is what I think you are asking for, here is what I thought you were trying to get across to me, whatever verbal communication that we are using to get to you they are either trying to inform you or request from you or entertain you or influence you. So, feed that back to them and then, go to the next step which is to clarify and confirm. Is that what you meant? Is that what you wanted me to understand? Is this what you were requesting of me? Then you can ask questions to clarify and confirm even further. Finally, you acknowledge the listening process. I thank you, you want me to be at the meeting next week at 10 a.


    , I will be there early. You want me to bring the following materials and I have these three types of materials to bring, is that what you want me to bring? Once again, you are clarifying and confirming. Now, you are acknowledging that you got it, you listened properly, they may even give you information that changes your meaning a little bit and then you confirm of course, that you are going to follow through and that you got the meaning of the message.