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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, May. 31, 201112:00 PM EST

Can you hear me now? How to listen before you speak


by Karen Brune Mathis

Managing Editor

It is almost palpable.

The work environment is frenetic and urgent, filled with multitasking, cell phones, emails, text messages and social media updates.

Meetings often are populated by people with laptops, tablets, smartphones and other devices commanding and receiving attention.

“People are in a hurry,” said Hal Resnick, a leadership development consultant based in Ponte Vedra Beach.

Resnick said communications are conducted in sound “bytes” and by email, text and social media rather than in person.

“Although technology enables business to operate in a much faster and often more efficient manner, we are losing the time to truly communicate with each other,” said Resnick in a recent newsletter.

Resnick calls for “the art of listening.”

He said it is “the one activity that represents the highest form of respect that we can give to another person, to truly listen to them.”

Resnick said that “true listening” means that you:

• Stop whatever else you are doing at that moment. Stop multitasking. Stop reading your email or text messaging while you are talking with the other person.

• Establish eye contact with the other person and communicate face-to-face so he or she knows that you are giving all of your attention.

• Avoid any impatient gestures, such as fidgeting or playing with objects.

• Show the other person that you are paying attention by maintaining eye contact, nodding to show understanding (not necessarily agreement), and showing you are listening and considering what he or she is saying.

• If you disagree, do not show disagreement while the other person is speaking by shaking your head no, holding up your hand, or displaying signs of frustration. Wait and continue to listen.

• Most important, quiet your mind so that you can truly hear what the other person is saying. You do not have to agree but you do need to fully hear and understand what is being said.

• If you want to show the other person that you have truly heard him or her, rephrase the essence of what was said to you in your own words.

• Now you can respond. Whether you agree or disagree, the other person will be much more receptive to what you have to say because he or she knows you heard the information.

Resnick said there are several reasons why taking the time and energy to truly listen matters.

First, he said listening is a sign of respect that builds relationships and trust.

Second, he said, “you may actually learn something. Listening without pre-judging opens the mind up to other considerations and often adds facts and perspective to a situation.”

Third, “having been heard increases our own flexibility.”

And fourth, taking the time to listen is actually more efficient.

“Not listening fully and jumping to conclusions often creates misunderstanding and course corrections or re-work later on. Taking the time to listen helps get it right the first time,” said Resnick.

Resnick also said there are three levels of conversation among people, which are debate, discussion and dialogue.

With debate, he said, both sides have a fixed position and neither is willing to give or take. Each side will listen, but only to find weaknesses in the other’s argument. Debate does not reflect true listening.

With discussion, people listen respectfully to each other, but more out of politeness than true listening. Each side waits for the other to finish speaking to take a turn. “While appearing to listen, many individuals are simply mentally preparing what they plan to say next,” he said.

Dialogue, however, is the highest level of communication, he said.

“Individuals share their perspective and then listen to fully understand what the other person is saying before they respond. Their response is not pre-determined. It is shaped by what they hear from the other person,” said Resnick.

“Dialogue typically leads to higher-quality decisions, along with the commitment of all parties to implement those decisions,” he said.

Resnick said that taking the time to listen will increase the quality of communications and decisionmaking, especially in a hectic workplace.


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