Listen Without Prejudice. How would you score your listening skills?

By Jeremy Blake on January 21, 2020

You are a good listener. Friends talk to you. You can keep a secret too. Listening to friends and families, of course, may be easier than listening to colleagues or customers.

Is that true? Or are you thinking; ‘I’m not a bad listener – but, like many people I could try a bit harder.’?

Type 1 – Listening to Speak, aka Internal Listening

As I walk into a friend’s party, I am introduced to someone; “Jeremy runs a training company and used to be an actor.” The person I’ve been introduced begins, “I loved acting, I was a donkey first at school and then we did Grease when I was older, and I played Kenickie. They ask, “What sort of acting did you do?” I reply, “Oh some dreadful things, one of the best plays I was in was Serious Money which we did at a theatre in The Kings Road…” They cut in, “The Kings Road! A great part of London, I went up and down on the bus with my Mum as a kid and had my first pint in the Henry J Beans pub!”

Listening to speak often comes from a place of wanting to bond and get on with people. When we meet people for the first time, it is a common habit to latch on to any similarities, to make some kind of connection. It’s politeness and covers up embarrassment, lack of knowledge or understanding. My message to you is that you don’t need to match people or show you like the same things; relax, ask a few questions and then you can share when the time is right. This endears you to people more.

Type 2 – Listening to Hear, aka Focussed Listening

When I said, “some dreadful things…” They might say, “What makes you say that?” I am now able to clarify what I mean. I can elaborate and may move on to something I did that I was proud of. Focused listening is more accurately picking out the actual words and trying to go a layer deeper in your understanding. On a first meeting this might be harder, especially in a noisy place.

Type 3 – Listening to Understand, aka Global Listening

I said, “which we did at a theatre at the top of The Kings Road.” They could ask, “What made it one of the best plays you were in?” – which gives me the chance to expand the story.  Of course, this isn’t a coaching conversation, it’s a social interaction and the person would also hope I take as much interest in their lives too, with some reciprocal questions about them!

When you’re conscious of these three types of listening, it’s easy to be critical of others, especially socially. Some people may never ask you about your life and only talk about themselves.  What you can control is your own behaviour and your own listening and questioning skills. With better listening, the questions you ask will be more natural and you will help people to think and feel more about what they are going to say and you will both get more from the conversation.

Dale Carnegie said, ““You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in them, than in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

Listening Practice Time!

  1. Take your ideas from this example and test out the three levels of listening with the next social interaction you have.
  2. Why not critique yourself on how you move through the three levels?
  3. Also see what kind of a listener you are, is the other person staying at type 1 or are they moving to 2 or 3?
  4. When you feel ready, take your listening skills into a conversation with your colleagues, boss, customer, supplier and more!

For a short film on this topic to use at your next sales, service, management, marketing or other type of meeting, send an email to subject line Listening Video.