Listening: The Peaks & Pits
You know how it feels when the customer service rep isn’t really listening.
Have you noticed how GOOD it feels to be really listened to?
It’s meaningful, especially when the listening goes beyond just the words you’re speaking.
The art of listening conveys respect and value and promotes positive relationships of all kinds.
And, like any art, it takes practice!
Only 7% of communication happens through a person’s actual words – 38% through tone and 55% through body language, according to Dr. Albert Mehrabian, known for his pioneering work in nonverbal communication.
Customer Service excellence suggests we deepen our listening skills.
What is that person not saying?
A good place to start is understanding 3 listening levels described in the book Co-Active Coaching, by Laura Whitworth, Henry Kimsey-House and Phil Sandahl.
P.S. Co-Active Coaching is the group that Maureen (our Founder) did her Coaches training.
Level 1—Internal: We hear the other person’s words, but our focus is on what it means to us—OUR thoughts, feelings, judgments and conclusions. We could be distracted and wondering “uh oh- how does this impact me?” or a level lower, “what do they think of me?” or (eeek) “do I have spinach stuck in my teeth?”
Level 2—Laser-Focused: Our attention is focused like a laser beam on the other person, with little awareness of anything else. With such strong focus, we are curious, open and have little time to pay attention to our own feelings or worry about how we are being received. Mind chatter disappears with such a sharp focus.
Level 3—Global: Our attention is spread out like an antenna with a 360-degree range. It allows us to pick up emotions, energy, body language and the environment itself. Intuition heightens as we tune into the deeper layers of what is going on around us.
All three levels are necessary. However, when we spend too much time in self-focused Level 1 listening, our communication can seriously suffer.
Engaging all three levels at once, with more emphasis on Levels 2 and 3, can improve how we listen—and the impact of how we are received.
Being a GREAT listener is a gift to the person sharing with you, a gift to YOU being tuned in and attentive and can really allow the person with whom you’re communicating feel honored.
Listening Blocks – Do you do any of these?
- Tune Out—Listeners not paying attention to the speaker. Perhaps we’re thinking about a witty text reply to that cute person?
- Detach—Listeners emotionally detached from speaker & miss underlying meaning. Maybe we’ve concluded that this isn’t relevant to us?
- Rehearse—Listeners concentrate on what to say or do next, not focusing on message. Gearing up to deliver that fabulous, intelligent response …. While missing the message!
- Judge—Listeners have different opinion & block out new ideas/information. A complete shut down because we KNOW this person is wrong and we are right!
- Control—Listeners don’t allow speaker to talk at own pace & constantly interrupt. Uh oh- I prefer to call this “interacting” not interrupting.
Ok, Now Try This!
A few suggestions for honing your listening skills. Enjoy them!
- Experiment with Levels 1, 2 and 3 listening to fully understand the dynamics at each level. Try this in everyday conversation, or practice with someone. Take turns telling a story and listening. The results may surprise you!
**Bonus- with someone you trust give them feedback about your perceive with your level 3 listening. Remember, we’re often listening to what is not being spoken.
- Spend some time noticing how often you fall into tuning out, detaching, rehearsing, judging or controlling.
What can you do to keep from falling into these common traps?
- In your everyday conversations, or in an intentional practice session with a partner, explore each listening block. Notice how you feel and the impact on the person with whom you are communicating.
The first step to developing artful listening is to choose to truly listen.
As you continue to develop your listening skills, your communication and your relationships are likely to become increasingly satisfying and rich!
If your team could use some coaching with listening or customer service skills, let us know firstname.lastname@example.org
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Author’s content used under license, © 2008 Claire Communications