Interpretation and Response

Perception in communication deals with our ability to interpret and respond to others.  That is obviously a critical ability to possess when we need to “hear” and process what others are trying to communicate when the normal tendency is to only be concerned with what I want to communicate.  When I listen closely, really listen, I have to care enough to perceive how the speaker feels.  I must attempt to perceive their emotions, moods and needs as we speak together in conversation.  Next, I am wondering without even being aware of it if this person is trying to connect with me, build or maintain their relationship with me.  Or perhaps they have sought me out as a sounding board to share ideas, feelings or problems.  How do I figure this out?

Communication experts recommend some crucial first steps:

  • suspend judgment
  • listen openly
  • resist the impulse to control the conversation
  • resist the urge to overanalyze what I “think” the speaker means to say

Would you agree that these steps are challenging?

In other words, we want to strive to attend to the full message.  Again, not as easy as it sounds, is it?  In order to hear and listen well, some evaluations are occurring, consciously and unconsciously, of both the message content and the messenger.  We do this from a variety of different perspectives or listening styles.  Communication experts have identified four basic listening styles that everyone uses at various times in various situations.  None of the styles we will examine in these next few blogs have any morality attached to them – they are not good or bad, just different.  Further, we all employ these and their variations depending on the situations we find ourselves in at various times.  What separates an effective listener from one that is not so effective?  Effective listeners learn to adapt, employing a variety of styles, again depending on the other person and the situation.  Still, according to researchers, we all tend to gravitate to one primary style.

The next four blogs will examine these more deeply, but briefly the four styles are:

  • Relational listeners – these listeners keep their ears attuned to the emotional cues over mere content.
  • Critical listeners – these listeners constantly evaluate the content of a conversation, paying scant attention to the emotions involved.
  • Task-oriented listeners – these listeners want just the facts – get to the point so that the tasks can be systematically broken down and begun.
  • Analytical listeners – these are the detail people – those who have an impulse to evaluate and control what is being said.

The next four blogs will go into more detail for each of these listening styles.  You will notice that some of the attributes overlap at times – listening is not an exact science or skill.   Why do we need to recognize what type of listening style we use?  Why is this awareness so valuable?

When we say someone is a good listener, what we are really saying is that they have learned to be more considerate, that they have cultivated their awareness so that they can skillfully adapt their listening styles to accommodate both the situation and the other speaker.  Every one of us appreciates being “heard” in conversations.  The challenge is to appreciate and remember that this also holds true for others.  Hopefully this information will motivate us all to examine, evaluate and adjust our listening styles in order to become more effective listeners.

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