To conclude The Art of Listening series, here are some things to watch out for when deciding which listening style to adopt.
In previous posts, I covered situations when it is hard to listen, types of listening and how to become good listeners. However, putting all this into practice means you need to know when it is appropriate to adopt one style over another. There are some things to watch out for in making that decision.
Be a kind listener when:
- The speaker is angry or in a bad mood.
- The speaker feels judged or stressed.
- When you want to please the listener or need something from him/her.
Please note: the risk of being a kind listener all the time is being perceived as “yes man”- someone who always says yes. People may lose respect for you if they suspect you are not being honest with them.
Be an empathic listener when:
- The speaker is sad and/or upset.
- The speaker needs to let off steam.
- The speaker cannot find the words to express him/herself.
- The speaker feels like no one understands him/her.
- The speaker feels wronged and judged.
Please note: being empathic does not help create change. Do not try to pretend you know how he feels. To not make it a bitching session or it will get out of proportion.
Be a critical listener when:
- It is part of your job to find faults.
- When the other person wants to sell you something and you want to know what you are buying.
- When the speaker is giving you professional advice: e.g. doctor, consultant.
Please note: critical listeners may seem like they are being aggressive and not listening. In mutual relationships, critical listeners can be exhausting companions. Your best bet is to use this listening style sparingly.
Be a solution focused listener when:
- The speaker has asked for your advice.
- The speaker is stuck and lost.
- The speaker is too negative.
- It is your job to give solutions.
- The speaker stands between you and your goal.
Please note: Solution focused listeners may seem like they are not listening because they are more concerned with speaking (i.e. giving advice). Do not jump to conclusions too quickly though. Make sure to listen to the speakers feelings.
The secret lies in the gradual progression between the listening styles. It is safe to start by being kind, then emphatic. Try a solution focus only when asked. Critical listening is only necessary when making serious decisions together and the setting is clear to everyone.
Above all, the art of listening depends on the ratio between speaking and listening. Speaking is the act of taking and listening is the act of giving. Give and you shall receive!