4 common listening sins to avoid (if you want to build or strengthen your work and personal relationships)

4 common listening sins to avoid TalentGrow blog Halelly Azulay

We've all been there: in a conversation with a co-worker, friend, or family member, you notice something's off.

…They seem to have a 'yeah, but' ready for everything you say.

…Or they respond to what they thought you said instead of what you actually said.

…Or they keep interrupting you.

…Or they seem distracted.

…Or they have no idea what you're talking about.

Not cool.

What’s going on?

Well, they're probably committing one (or more) of four common listening sins.

I’m going to describe these sins to you, but first, a challenge:

Is there a chance that maybe, just maybe, you do this too?

If you’re being honest with yourself, your answer should be “Yes.” Because we all commit these listening sins from time to time.

No Bueno.

Here are the four common listening sins -- do you recognize them? 

Sin #1: Listening by waiting for your turn to speak

Perhaps you're an over-eager communicator, just itching to jump into the conversation. Or just impatient. But there's a huge risk to "listening by waiting your turn."

First, you're probably missing stuff. You're so eager to speak that you're not hearing some of what's being said. You might learn something new, or change your mind, or maybe even agree, if you just took the time to listen to the whole message the speaker is communicating before barging in or interrupting them.

Second, you're coming across as a rude jerk. People really want to see that you care about what they think. You're damaging trust and harming the relationship.

Sin #2: Listening by formulating your response

The purpose of communication is to arrive at shared meaning with another person.

When someone speaks, they are describing what they think, know, need, or feel to the listener. While one speaks, the listener needs to be listening to their message in order to receive it and process its meaning.

If your brain is busy thinking of a response, it cannot simultaneously also be focused on receiving the communicated message being sent from the speaker. Your brain cannot multi-task on this.

So if you're formulating your response, you're NOT listening. Period.

Sin #3: Listening by mentally reviewing your [grocery list]

Again, if your brain is busy making a list and checking it twice, ain't no way it's also listening. You must attend to the message coming from the speaker -- with your ears AND your brain -- for it to count as listening.

Sorry, my friend. What you're doing here doesn't count as listening.

[To learn more about why you should avoid distracted listening, watch my vlog about it here.]

Sin #4: Listening by daydreaming

Really, do I need to explain? Or are you seeing a pattern here?...

Ok, how do I correct these fools’ sins?

Ah, that would be so nice, right?

While it's easy to laugh at these common listening sins, they're common because we all do them sometimes. Some of us more than others. 

And here’s what’s tricky about human behavior and communication:

We can't change others - we can only change ourselves.

[^ Ooh - that's a tweetable! Click on it to tweet it out right now!]

Communication challenges abound (such as miscommunication, mistakes, conflicts, hurt feelings, broken relationships, etc.)

So, check yourself and ensure that you, at least, do not fall in the trap of committing any of these listening faux pas. Don't be one of those listeners. Of course, you could do more to ensure that you're a more engaging communicator.

[Read more on how to be a more engaging communicator here.]

And while most people would easily agree that sins no. 3 and 4 are really obvious -- we get that these do not constitute listening -- unfortunately I've had numerous discussions with people who genuinely believed sins no. 1 and 2 are not a big deal.

Or worse, they even thought these were a legitimate listening practice within the spectrum of allowable listening styles and behaviors.

Please don't be one of these delusional people. You're leaving a mess in your wake.

It's negatively impacting the people around you. It's getting in the way of business and relationships.

Just stop it.


[To learn how to REALLY listen, and thus reduce conflict, read about it in my post here.]

Your turn:

Ever encounter these sins in yourself? In others? Chime in below. I'm all ears! :)

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