Three Ways to Listen. Remember the Three Monkeys?


You remember the three monkeys: see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.  Well, we propose an alternative: see to reveal, hear to reveal and speak to reveal.

 See To Reveal or Listen With Your Eyes

When you see the person who is speaking, the attendant facial expressions often clarify what you hear. On the other hand, you’ve probably noticed when you are conversing over the phone, that it’s easy to unintentionally talk over the person on the other end.  When the speaker is kidding, you can’t see the twinkling eyes that cue you that the statement is meant as a joke.  Likewise, when the speaker is trying to choke back tears, you miss the strong feeling behind the message.

When you have the opportunity to converse face-to-face, pay attention to the facial expressions, as well as other signals that can be sent by the stance or gesture and posture.  If you think listening means only hearing words, you ignore the rich part of the message that comes to you non-verbally. See what you hear.  See what is revealed.

 Hear to Reveal or Listen With Your Ears

This sounds obvious, but it’s actually problematic.  Often we hear but don’t listen.  Perhaps background noise inhibits our ability to hear.  Sometimes we hear but we let our minds wander, so we may hear without listening. Sometimes, we psychologically block out messages that we find uncomfortable. We are particularly guilty of hearing words but not the feelings behind the words. We miss the vocal tones and feelings the words express. See how much is revealed when you hear both words and feelings.

Speak to Reveal or Listen With Your Mouth

Listen with your mouth? Doesn’t that sound like an oxymoron?  Weren’t you told to “shut your mouth and listen?” Psychologists Dr. Carl Rogers and Dr. Thomas Gordon developed the concept of “active listening.” That means that after we listen, we respond with words from our mouth that assure the speaker that we understood. It usually encourages the speaker to say more.

Sometimes the words are simple, like “I see,” “Oh,” or “That’s interesting.”  Using our mouths can further the “art of listening” by asking a clarifying question: “Are you saying that…?” or “I think you’re saying . . ., is that right?” It is most powerful when we use our mouths to let the speaker know we’ve heard the feelings behind the words (sometimes only communicated non-verbally), as in “That’s scary, isn’t it?” or “I sense that your uncomfortable about this assignment.”  Speak to the speaker and reveal what you have heard.

That’s it for today.  Try these ideas and give us YOUR thoughts.

Carolyn Shadle, PhD, and John Meyer, PhD

ICS WorkplaceCommunication, Carolyn Shadle, PhD, and John Meyer, PhD


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