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Phi Management Talks Around: Let's kill the myth. How has the definition of listening skills evolved


We need to clear the thoughts around listening skills. The fact is we spend around 62 % percent of our time listening and how much do we retain around 24%. And there is a lot of misunderstanding and old school thoughts around listening, much like leadership the definition of GREAT listening skills has evolved.

The idea is that some of us still think that listening is absorbing and that is a very passive approach. Some of us still believe that listening is about being silent and not interrupting. What if this silent person is actually wondering off in his thoughts? What if this person is actually extremely closed to point that he is not even letting you know what is on his mind so that you don’t change it?

What does that mean? Are we telling you that you need to interrupt?
What we are saying is that great listening is NOT:

- Being Silent 
- Repeating what the other person is saying
- Nodding and saying yes
- Or just having positive facial expressions

As recent research that were conducted by HBR suggests that these behaviors fall far short of describing good listening skills. “We analyzed data describing the behavior of 3,492 participants in a development program designed to help managers become better coaches. As part of this program, their coaching skills were assessed by others in 360-degree assessments. We identified those who were perceived as being the most effective listeners (the top 5%). We then compared the best listeners to the average of all other people in the data set and identified the 20 items showing the largest significant difference. With those results in hand we identified the differences between great and average listeners and analyzed the data to determine what characteristics their colleagues identified as the behaviors that made them outstanding listeners”.

So what did they discover? How do great listeners behave? 
- Listening is a dialogue not a monologue.
- Great listening is not about being silent, on the contrary good listeners ask questions, and this is the best indicator that the people want to know more about what you are saying, that they are interested. They know how to gently challenge your thoughts and tickle your mind.
- Making it a safe: Good listening behaviors exclude competition and argumentation, unless it is a debate, it not about winning. Positive reinforcement is key for people to feel comfortable to speak their mind up, without having to justify their thoughts.
- Creating a distraction free environment: YES, obstacles such as desks, phones and distractions need to be cleared, we all know what phones do to conversations nowadays. This also shows the right attitude and encourages the speaker to speak freely.
- Nonverbal cues are the strongest congruence of our thoughts. Listen to what is not being said.
- Empathy: if you don’t understand the other person’s feeling about the subject then you might be still behaving as a good listener. The only real time you move from GOOD to GREAT is when you enter his circle and momentarily move out of your zone to really see where he is, understand his feelings and then can start injecting thoughts in his mind, as you will be in his circle.

Finally, great listening is about creating a cloud of the sender and the receivers' minds where both are on the same wave. Coupling their minds and really seeing and listening from each other’s perspective, with no pre-assumption, no judgement, extreme humility, curiosity, respecting each other’s difference and appreciating the uniqueness of each.

You can’t believe you have been listening in a conversation if you have not moved, learned or changed one thought. If you stayed in your spot, it could be because simply you were not listening.

The above is inspired from a HBR article on what makes great listeners: