I read an excellent article today written by Mark Goulston and John Ullman. It was written with business people as the target audience with the goal being to give them tools to become more influential and better salesmen, basically. There were good truths, however, and reminders that all people are seeking a connection. They are looking for someone who cares. Paraphrased, this is what Goulston and Ullman had to say:
In order to engage with another, we need to listen with a strong motive to learn and understand. We have "blind spots" that hinder us so that what we hear is distorted by our own needs, biases and experiences...even when our intentions are good. We hear what others are saying without hearing what they mean. There are four main levels of listening and 95% of us will fall somewhere within the first three levels.
1. Avoidance = Listening Over
These are the people who say, "Uh-huh" while not even taking the time to stop what they are doing...checking email, reading texts, playing with phone, watching TV.
2. Defensive = Listening At
These are people who listen with their defenses up, preparing counterpoints while the person is still talking. It is being quick to react and slow to consider.
3. Problem-Solving = Listening To
These are people who listen in order to accomplish or to move things forward. If solutions are genuinely being sought by the speaker, this type of listening is okay, but more often than not the speaker ends up feeling frustrated, misunderstood or resentful.
4. Connective = Listening Into
These are the people we all crave. They listen INTO what is being said in order to understand what is going on inside the speaker. They listen on the speaker's terms, not their own. It is putting aside pre-conceived ideas, letting down defenses, hearing beyond words and seeking to make a connection that is heartfelt and genuinely interested.