"We were given two ears but only one mouth, because listening is twice as hard as talking".
The Three Basic Listening Modes
1. Competitive or Combative Listening happens when we are more interested in promoting our own point of view than in understanding or exploring someone else’s view. We either listen for openings to take the floor, or for flaws or weak points we can attack. As we pretend to pay attention we are impatiently waiting for an opening, or internally formulating our rebuttal and planning our devastating comeback that will destroy their argument and make us the victor.
2. In Passive or Attentive Listening we are genuinely interested in hearing and understanding the other person’s point of view. We are attentive and passively listen. We assume that we heard and understand correctly. but stay passive and do not verify it.
3. Active or Reflective Listening is the single most useful and important listening skill. In active listening we are also genuinely interested in understanding what the other person is thinking, feeling, wanting or what the message means, and we are active in checking out our understanding before we respond with our own new message. We restate or paraphrase our understanding of their message and reflect it back to the sender for verification. This verification or feedback process is what distinguishes active listening and makes it effective.
There is a real distinction between merely hearing the words and really listening for the message. When we listen effectively we understand what the person is thinking and/or feeling from the other person’s own perspective. It is as if we were standing in the other person’s shoes, seeing through his/her eyes and listening through the person's ears. Our own viewpoint may be different and we may not necessarily agree with the person, but as we listen, we understand from the other's perspective. To listen effectively, we must be actively involved in the communication process, and not just listening passively.
• Usually it is important to paraphrase and use your own words in verbalizing your understanding of the message. Parroting back the words verbatim is annoying and does not ensure accurate understanding of the message.
• Depending on the purpose of the interaction and your understanding of what is relevant, you could reflect back the other persons, Account of the facts, Thoughts and beliefs, Feelings and emotions, Wants, needs or motivation, Hopes and expectations.
• Don’t respond to just the meaning of the words, look for the feelings or intent beyond the words. The dictionary or surface meaning of the words or code used by the sender is not the message.
• Inhibit your impulse to immediately answer questions. The code may be in the form of a question. Sometimes people ask questions when they really want to express themselves and are not open to hearing an answer.
• If you are confused and know you do not understand, either tell the person you don’t understand and ask him/her to say it another way.
• Active listening is a very effective first response when the other person is angry, hurt or expressing difficult feelings toward you, especially in relationships that are important to you.