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Listening to Understand

Click here to read the complete article
244 – The Annual, 2016-2017


How many times have you been involved in a conversation and your thoughts turn to the response you are going to give rather than listening to the words the person is saying? Often? Don’t despair, this happens more than most people realize. It is easy to listen to a conversation with a view toward responding rather than with a view toward understanding. It is human nature. Few, if any, people engaging in a discussion stop and really listen.

Listening, as a skill, is easier said than done. Listening is one of the greatest solution-finding tools we have, yet most of us don’t use it effectively. Studies show it is difficult to focus on listening if someone is disagreeing with you. Even a formidable negotiator like Roger Fisher, who wrote the wonderful mediation book Get- ting Past No with Bill Ury, finds it hard to listen if he disagrees with someone. So, how does one learn to listen for understanding?

What can you do to augment listening comprehension? How do you stop and listen? In an article from Harvard University’s Pro- gram on Negotiation (PON) entitled Negotiation Tips – Listening Skills for Dealing with Difficult People – PONS, the authors pro- vide us with three steps we can take to learn how to improve our listening skills. [http://www.pon.harvard.edu/daily/dealing-with- difficult-people-daily/negotiation-tips-listening-skills-for-dealing- with-difficult-people/]

The article initially recognizes that it takes time to cultivate the art of listening during a disagreement. It’s amazing to realize, al- though we have two ears and one mouth, we use our ears half as much as our mouths. We have twice the ability to listen; yet we are twice as likely to speak instead.

The PON’s article goes on to suggest that we first need to take the initiative to cultivate our listening skills by actively preparing to listen. How do you do that? Well, as you prepare to have a dis- cussion, don’t just make a list of your ideas or grievances. Make an alternate list of what you believe are your counterpart’s ideas, beliefs and interests. You will have taken the first steps toward lis- tening for understanding. By thinking in the alternative and taking the time to make a list of your understanding of the other side’s feelings or beliefs, you have started the wheels of neutral listening for comprehension.

Click here to read the complete article
244 – The Annual, 2016-2017

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