Learning to Listen Up!

Hi, Anita:

I am beginning to get extremely frustrated with my co-worker and need some advice. No matter how hard I try, she seems to be incapable of listening to any of my thoughts or suggestions. It is like the minute I start talking she puts in her figurative earplugs and tunes me out. Is it just me or something more?

Hi, Help with the Selectively Deaf:

listenerThanks for the question. Hearing what someone has to say is one thing, but actually listening to them is an entirely different matter. It is an accepted belief that actively listening to another person takes a certain degree of skill and upkeep. More often than not, people fail to maintain their listening skills and quickly fall into damaging and unproductive communication habits. I have been doing some research and recently picked up a great book on the subject called “Power Listening: The Most Powerful Business Skill of All” by Bernard Ferrari. In his book, he describes 6 different types of bad listeners:

  • The Opinionator: A person who listens to others’ ideas but only to see whether or not they conform to his or her own already-held beliefs and ideas.
  • The Grouch: A person who is absolutely certain that his or her colleagues do not have any valuable or valid ideas. All other input, except theirs, is wrong. They will express displeasure and disapproval for all opinions with a “You are full of it” response.
  • The Preambler: An individual who has carefully calculated scripts and lengthy lead-ins to box in his conversation partners to his pre-conceived ideas.
  • The Perseverator: A conversation partner that remains steady on their ideas and uses techniques to not advance discussion in hopes of keeping their opinions on top.
  • The Answer Man: A person who has immature listening skills and provides solutions to problems without listening to all of the facts.
  • The Pretender: An individual who is not interested in what his conversation partner has to say. These people enter into dialogues with their opinions and choose to not engage in the conversation. These people politely listen and pretend to be fully involved in a conversation when in reality they are simply off on another planet or putting on a show just for you.

These are the most common listener types, but you can bet that bad listeners come in every size, shape, form, and combination of the above. Remember: it is almost impossible to rid yourself of an ailment if you do not have a proper diagnosis. Try to identify what type of listener you are (or which one you’re talking to) and begin to break down the barriers of communication.

Readers: What types of listeners do you encounter in your day-to-day lives? Which one do you think is the most difficult to deal with?



Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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