Attributes of an Effective Listener
Another way to make listening work is to be aware of the attributes of an effective listener. Tests conducted at the University of Minnesota identified several common attributes of effective listeners. Good listeners looked for an area of interest in the speaker's message; they viewed it as an opportunity to gather new and useful information. Effective listeners were aware of their personal biases and were better able to avoid making automatic judgments about the speaker and to avoid being influenced by emotion-charged words. They also tended to listen to ideas, rather than specific facts in a message. These people used extra thought-time to anticipate the speaker's next statement, to mentally summarize the message, to question or evaluate the message, or to consciously notice nonverbal cues.
Another research study done by the author identified the following characteristics for ideal listeners:
• They keep an open, curious mind.
• They listen for new ideas everywhere, integrating what they listen to with what they already know.
• They are aware and thus listen to others with their total being.
• They listen from the heart to help stay nonjudgmental.
• Being this aware, they are not willing to blindly follow the crowd.
• They maintain conscious perspective on what is occurring, rather than remaining unconscious and missing important details.
• They look for ideas, organization, and new ways of doing things, and listen to the essence of things.
• Knowing that no two people listen in the same way, they stay mentally alert by outlining, clarifying, approving, and adding illustrations of their own.
• They are introspective and have the capacity and desire to critically examine, understand, and attempt to transform some of their values, attitudes, and relationships within themselves and others.
• They focus their attention on the talker's ideas while listening with feeling and intuition.