Are you (how to be) a good listener
Having a conversation with another person, or with multiple people in a group setting always has its challenges.
Those people who are talking, what are they really trying to do? Do they hijack the conversation changing it to thrier own topic? Is it a mad tea party with the topic changes every few minutes making people dizzy? Are people talking just to hear himself/herself talk as self-indulgence? Do people who are talking advance the conversation? What about those people who have nothing to say – can a person be devoid of ideas and thoughts? ( read more – Conversational Challenges)
What about the other side? What about listening? A conversation, where topics are advanced in dialog, may be more about listening than about talking.
There was a recent article from McKinsey that attempts to set out the various archetypes of bad listeners. Along with the article was another article on how executives could be better listeners.
Whether you’re a senior executive at a Fortune 100 company or just someone having a conversation in the backyard with neighbors, knowing these archetypes of bad listeners may give you insight as to why the conversation goes as it does.
And, more importantly, in a business context, people with poor listening skills are sometime also those people who are difficult to get along with. Their conversations are not at all transparent, they are not interested in considering other opinions, and the conversation is not in the service of advancing an understanding of the topic under consideration.
So, digest the profiles below. Next time you are in a conversation with a difficult person perhaps they are one of the archetypes identified below – or perhaps you have discovered another to be added to the list. Review your past conversations with people to see if any of them fit the archetypes.
Afer you’ve digested the profile of these “conversation busters” scroll down and read the article on some recommendations on how to cultivate the skill of being a better listener.
The Opinionator listens to others primarily to determine whether or not their ideas conform to what he or she already believes to be true. Opinionators may appear to be listening closely, but they aren’t listening with an open mind and instead often use their silences as opportunities to “reload.” While Opinionators may have good intentions, the effect of this listening style is to make conversation partners uncomfortable or even to intimidate them. Opinionators routinely squelch their colleagues’ ideas.
Grouches are poor listeners who are blocked by a feeling of certainty that your idea is wrong. One typical grouch, a top executive I worked with at an industrial company, made no secret of his contempt for other people’s ideas. He approached conversations as a necessary evil and sent the implicit message: “You’re full of it. You’re a fool. Why did you think I’d be interested in this?” Through perseverance, people could get through to him in conversations, painful though that was. However, many of his colleagues simply didn’t have the energy to break down his barriers every time they needed to express an idea to him.
The Preambler’s windy lead-ins and questions are really stealth speeches, often intended to box conversation partners into a corner. Preamblers use questioning to steer the discussion, send warnings, or generate a desired answer. I remember a meeting with one Preambler, the chairman and CEO of a medical complex, who (by my watch) spent 15 minutes posing slanted questions and making rhetorical assertions that all supported a recommendation he wanted to make to his board. Such behavior epitomizes one-way communication
Perseverators talk a lot without saying anything. If you pay close attention to one of these poor listeners, you’ll find that their comments and questions don’t advance the conversation. As often as not, Perseverators are editing on the fly and fine-tuning their thoughts through reiteration. Perseverators use the thoughts of their conversation partners to support their own prejudices, biases, or ideas. When talking to one, you may feel that the two of you are having completely different
The Answer Man
Everyone wants to solve problems, but Answer Man spouts solutions before there is even a consensus about the challenge—a clear signal that input from conversation partners isn’t needed. Answer Man may appear at first to be an Opinionator. But the latter is motivated by strong feelings of being right, while the former is desperately eager to please and impress. You know you are speaking to Answer Man if your conversation partner can’t stop providing solutions and has ready answers for any flaws you point out, as well as quick rejoinders to all the points you raise
Pretenders feign engagement and even agreement but either aren’t interested in what you’re saying or have already made up their minds. The worst Pretender I ever met was the CEO of a health care company who had all the right moves: he seemed to hang on every word uttered, for example, and frequently won people over with a knowing, empathetic smile. That gave his conversation partners every indication that he was processing their words and agreeing with them. Yet eventually his colleagues would realize that he had not acted on anything they’d said or, worse, didn’t have access to that information when it came time to make decisions or take action.