Effective communication hinges on our ability to listen. Listening above all other skills is critical to a leader’s success. Research tells us that as adults, we spend 70% of our time engaged in some kind of communication with an average of 45% of that time listening. If we spend this amount of time engaged in listening and communication, then our quality of relationships, job performance, and nearly every aspect of our lives are linked to how well we do at both.
What is listening? Listening is the ability to receive and interpret messages in the communication process. It is the process of recognizing, understanding, and accurately interpreting the messages you hear. According to a NY Times article The Science and Art of Listening, it states “listening tunes our brain to the patterns of our environment faster than any other sense, and paying attention to the nonvisual parts of our world feeds into everything from our intellectual sharpness to our dance skills”.
The better we become at listening will have a direct correlation to improved relationships. This is true in personal, professional, and in our spiritual lives. Listening is a skill that we can work on and improve. The better listener you are, the better communicator you are.
According to Larry Barker and Kittie Watson in Listen Up: How to improve relationships, reduce stress, and be more productive by using the power of listening, they learned four distinctive preferences of how individuals prefer to listen.
Here are the four types of listeners or preferences:
Time-oriented listeners are concerned with efficiency. These listeners don’t want the whole story; they just want the facts that are pertinent. They want the information to be clear and to the point.
Action-oriented listeners are strictly focused on the tasks. They focus first on what will be done, what actions need to happen, and when and who will do them. They are focused on solving problems and are the listeners that keep to the agenda in meetings.
Content-oriented listeners evaluate what they hear carefully and prefer credible sources. They evaluate the content from different perspectives and angles and want to know what are the facts and what is the evidence.
People-oriented listeners focus on the feelings of other people and listen with relationships in mind. They respond well to humor and illustrations.
The best listeners are able to adapt how they listen. They adapt their listening skills depending on context and applicability. They are able to determine what listening skill should be used when. Most listeners have a default preference but are able to develop multiple preferences.
There are many benefits to becoming better listeners. Increased communication, strengthened relationships, created opportunities, and you save time and money. If you work to be a better listener, there will be an increase in the quality of time you spend and you will be much happier. Not only will you understand more, you will be better understood. Work on becoming a better listener.