Positive versus Negative Listening

In school, we weren’t taught positive listening. It is doubtful we came home from school proudly waving a “listener of the week” award!  But, learning to develop positive listening skills is the first step to real communication. And, understanding different listening styles which I call, “Saturn and Neptune“, to reflect how far apart we can seem from each other, can be easy if you practice positive listening.

How often are we evaluated in the workplace for our “listening” rather than our “doing” (performance) skills?  Usually, we are rewarded for accomplishing rather than listening. Our goal is to “get it done” at all costs, even though we may completely overlook (misunderstand) what we have been charged to do. We aren’t hearing the “language” used by our charger. This can be called “negative” listening, as in not hearing what is really being said.

Some examples of negative listening are:

• Waiting for the other person to stop speaking so you can say what you wish.

• Providing an answer without knowing the question.

• Finishing the other person’s sentence for him/her.

• Making more statements with “I” than asking questions with “you.”

Positive listening, on the other hand, provides a translator with a bridge to connect with a person from the other planet. It expands and invites the listener. Negative listening undermines or simply terminates communication. Some examples of positive listening and responding techniques:

• Ask questions to discern another’s wants and concerns.

• Accept (and welcome!) different perspectives without forming assessments.

• Take an active role in the communication process by taking responsibility to really hear the other person.

• Ask a lot of “you” questions to display an interest and other-centeredness.

This way each dialect becomes second nature as you will see next week.

Sandra Ford Walston is known as The Courage Expert and innovator of StuckingThinking™. She is a speaker, internationally published author of COURAGE, trainer and courage coach.

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