Styles of Listening
Styles of Listening
The faker. Some people fake attention. They pretend to listen when their minds are actually off on a flashing tangent. They may fake attention because they think they are pleasing the talker. Often, people who wish to be attentive have their eyes riveted on the talker. Their ears appear to be wide open. They so exhaust themselves in playing the attentive role that they end up no longer listening at all. Have you ever watched a person fake listening by smiling and head-nodding, when neither the smile nor the head-nodding matched what the talker was saying?
Others try hard to fake being good listeners by trying to memorize every fact given; thus, the intent of the message becomes lost. However, they give the impression of listening with interest and curiosity. This need to hear and digest everything being said can easily lead to an overloading and jamming of the communication network.
The dependent listener. Some listeners are highly dependent and live vicariously through the opinions, wishes, and feelings of others. Often, their feelings are evoked in interpersonal communication situations, making it difficult for them to deal with abstract matters. So much concern is given to how they are listening and reacting to the talker that they miss out on what is actually being said. In their urgency to elicit a favorable impression from the talker, they focus on how they appear to others, rather than on the clarity and content of what they are saying.
The interrupter. Sam had a habit of interrupting when others were talking. He thought he'd forget what he wanted to say if he didn't interrupt. He often felt anxious if he wasn't able to say what was on his mind. Many times, the people he worked with became frustrated and annoyed by his behavior.
While completing a self-awareness exercise, he discovered he was so busy focusing on what he wanted to say that he listened at level 2 (hearing words but not making an effort to understand the speaker's intent) or 3. In the process, he wasn't considering the talker's needs. During a practice session, in which he had to paraphrase what the other said, he became conscious of his internal process. He started to think of what he wanted to say after the talker had spoken only a few words. After he became aware of this internal process, he could stop and direct his attention to what the talker was saying. He found he could remember what he wanted to say by associating what the talker had said with the information he wanted to discuss.
Bringing up something that doesn't relate to what the talker is saying is another form of interruption. Often, this is done when the talker is discussing something the listener is uncomfortable with and feels threatened by. The listener takes the conversation off on unrelated tangents as a means to sidestep the issue being discussed. The talker gets so involved in the side issue that the real issue is never dealt with.
The self-conscious listener. Some individuals focus too much attention on themselves by thinking, "Am I doing well or badly?"; "Do I look all right?"; "I wonder if the talker thinks I'm intelligent?" These people give attention to themselves as participants when it would be better to involve themselves in the content and meaning of the conversation.
Self-consciousness can also be viewed as a kind of preoccupation with internal matters at the expense of effective listening. When people become too concerned about how well the discussion is going, they often lose their spontaneity and become overly involved with themselves during the conversation. Our society has unspecified standards as to how much people are allowed to be carried away by talk and how thoroughly they are to permit themselves to be caught up in the conversation. People who become too involved give the impression that they don't have self-control over their feelings and actions. This can lead the listener to draw away from involvement with the other person. One person's overeagerness can be another's alienation. In this kind of situation, the talker is forced to adjust to the listener's state of emotion because the listener is incapable of adjusting his or her own.
The intellectual or logical listener. The intellectual listeners listen mostly with their heads, hearing only what they want to hear, blotting out larger areas of reality. Because they are mainly interested in a rational appraisal, perhaps as a result of their educational training, they tend to neglect the emotional and nonverbal aspects of the talker's behavior. Thus, they listen at level 2, only to the words, rather than the whole message. Their evaluation of what is said is most often geared to the interpretation of verbal statements, often causing them to miss the less obvious intent.
They are not aware of how listening behavior affects others or how others affect them. They listen in terms of categories, making certain that what they listen to does not disturb their inner peace or systematic order. It is almost as if they are putting what the talker is saying into a computer's data bank. If a statement doesn't fit into a systematic logical sequence, their minds reject what is said as invalid. I refer to this process as getting into "analysis paralysis."
These types of listeners are so involved in programming what is being said that they miss out on the deeper meaning of what is spoken. These types of listeners cut off experiencing through the sensory system, thus losing the opportunity to actually experience the event. The brain is so busy making calculations that the body isn't given the chance to feel the communication. As a result, nonverbal communication is disregarded. All this is happening because the listeners are blind to their own emotions and the emotions of others.