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Listening Tips For Productivity And Success

Updated on June 20, 2013
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I'm a dad, husband, and Christian first. Second, I'm an educator and organizational development professional.


Many misinterpret communication as merely talking. When we fail to listen, we fail to communicate.

This is based on an actual radio conversation between a U.S. Navy
aircraft carrier (U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln) and Canadian authorities
off the coast of Newfoundland in October, 1995. (The radio
conversation was released by the Chief of Naval Operations on
10/10/95 authorized by the Freedom of Information Act.)

Canadians: Please divert your course 15 degrees to the South to
avoid collision.

Americans: Recommend you divert your course 15 degrees to the
North to avoid a collision.

Canadians: Negative. You will have to divert your course 15
degrees to the South to avoid a collision.

Americans: This is the Captain of a US Navy ship. I say again,
divert YOUR course.

Canadians: No, I say again, you divert YOUR course.


Canadians: This is a lighthouse. Your call.

(taken from

The conversation above is hilarious. Moreover, it's a great backdrop when we talk about communication. Most people think that communication is all about talking. When this happens, they fail to value the power of listening and fail to communicate altogether.

It is quite curious how we often neglect to listen to others. As social beings, communication seems to be natural – allow me to rephrase that….talking seems to be natural. However, to properly communicate, we need to actively listen to others.

As humans, we have a tendency to “Lock On” to information that we think favors our side and/or to “Lock Out” information that we perceive as worthless. And the truth is devoured by our ego and we spiral down into a selfish “communication” mode.

Stephen Covey, author of the Seven Habits Of Highly Effective people once wrote that we should “seek first to understand then to be understood”. As simple as that, we are drawn to realize our need to humble ourselves and take the time to listen.

The value of the Pause

When business communication (or any other type of communication) gets out of hand, we need to pause and reorient ourselves. It takes a great deal of will power to do so but in the end having it otherwise will be more detrimental. Pausing before we respond gives us time to evaluate the situation and the circumstances. It provides a time to collect our composure and to sort through our own handles. No wonder a lot of psychologists will advice us to count to 10. It’s not the numbers! It’s the value of the “pause” that reflects the power of listening.. 

Empty out our scripts

If we look more intently at ourselves, we will find that we often rehearse scripts of retorts and rebuttals instead of actually listening.  We wait for words suitable to inject our predetermined response.  This is not active listening but a self-centered way of communication.  Emptying our scripts encourages us to first listen and see things from the other person’s point of view. To engage in the conversation with an open mind we must let go of internal rehearsals. To enjoy the fruits of meaningful communication we must empty ourselves of the nagging desire to close our minds.

Resolving over winning

I haven’t met anyone who does not want to win. However, in communication, it’s not about winning an argument but resolving one. We need to relax our competitiveness and put on a more cooperative mood. Some argue better than others, and some simply won’t argue at all. We can always agree to disagree.

Avoiding LO/LO is not as easy as flipping through the channels when watching T.V. We are trying to drop a mental attitude that has been unconsciously accepted. Lock on/lock out is an attitude that has been imbibed through constant exposure. It is an action without the benefit of thought and reason. It robs us of the opportunity to create lasting and meaningful relationships.


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