Feed the flame

Are you really listening?

by Karthik Gurumurthy



One of the biggest assumptions all of us have is we listen well. But mostly we don't. I was reading a book "Just Listen" by Dr.  Mark Goulston. Author has outlined the importance of listening in any kind of relationship, be it business or personal. In his phenomenal book, he has classified listening into four different categories.

1.   Removed listening is just what it sounds like: removed.   It’s the kind of listening you do when you’re actually engaged in something else, like using your BlackBerry.  You may parrot back what I’ve said, but you aren’t really paying attention.  You’re mind is elsewhere and you risk letting me feel like I’m being ignored or like what I say doesn’t mean anything to you.  It’s a lot like talking over someone else’s words in a conversation—but in this case you’re “listening over” my words.

2.   With reactive listening, you’re being somewhat more attentive than removed, but still not wholly attentive. If I ask you a question, you reply with a straightforward answer but not a lot of thought. You’ve heard me, but you aren’t really mulling over what I’ve said.  Reactive listening takes away from the value of our conversation.

3.    You engage in responsible listening when you not only react to what I have said but reply with further action or elaboration. Responsible listening is the basis of all good conversations.  It’s the equivalent of talking with someone, as opposed to talking at them or over them.

4.    Receptive listening is the deepest form of listening. With this kind of listening, you let me know that you empathize fully with what I have to say, and are trying to feel what I am feeling. This is the level of listening we all want to achieve in sparring.  Receptive listening conveys generosity and respect.

Relationship builders should spend most of their time being responsible and receptive listeners and a lot less time being removed or reactive listeners.


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