Why Don’t We Listen?

Posted on by Leave a Comment

In a text-message world where face-to-face is being replaced by tech-to-tech communication, we seldom have the chance to exercise our listening skills. Not that listening has ever been a strength for the majority. Most of us readily master the art of talking in our first 2-3 years on the planet. Listening, on the other hand—not so much.

Listen by Marcus Quigmire, Wikimedia Commons

According to the Writing Lab at Purdue University, there are a number of "types" who derail the listening process with a variety of counterproductive (if unintentional) habits.

Maybe you’ve encountered these types or recognize yourself among them.

So Many Ways to Avoid Listening

Mind Reader: The mind reader hears little of what’s being said, being too busy wondering what the speaker is really thinking or feeling.

Rehearser: Rehearsers spend the entire conversation crafting their next comment, just waiting for a break in the flow to get a word in.

Filterer: A filterer is the ultimate selective listener. As Simon and Garfunkel so aptly put it: “A man [filterer] hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.”

Dreamer: The dreamer finds the sound of someone else’s voice a little soporific and tends to drift away on an inattentive cloud, leaving the conversation to continue as background noise.

Identifier: Identifiers feel compelled to tie everything they hear to personal experience. Since it’s not possible to share the reality of everyone who speaks to them, they often reshape what they’ve heard to fit their own reality.

Comparer: The comparer focuses on assessing the speaker and often loses the message in the process.

Derailer: Derailers quickly change the subject, making it clear that they’re not interested in what the speaker has to say. 

Sparrer: The sparrers of the world are those who can’t help but heckle, automatically belittling or discounting whatever someone else says without giving it due consideration.

Placater: Finally, people who agree with everything they hear just to be nice are placaters. Although they may seem to be listening, they are just as likely to be parroting back affirmations without registering a word.

Wired to Talk

Exceptional listening skills don’t come naturally to most people. There are a number of reasons why this might be true.

  • From an early age we’re wired to seek attention from family, at school and eventually in the workplace. Being a good listener doesn’t scream “notice me!” So it’s not surprising that most people don’t spend a lot of time cultivating their listening skills.
  • While verbal communication skills are often listed as a desired trait in job advertisements, strong listening skills seldom appear except in very specific job categories, such as counseling.
  • People seldom win awards, get promoted or receive recognition for being excellent listeners. Exceptional speakers, on the other hand, have been known to experience all of the above.

One other reason that Susan de la Vergne explores in her article, We're Terrible Listeners—And Here's Why, is our tendency to allocate greater importance to ourselves than to others.  In her words:

“We think we’re more important than our colleagues and associates. We’re more important than people we don’t know. We’re more important than our boss, than the barista who makes our morning latte, the admin assistant in our department, or the security guy who roams the parking lot. We’re more important.”

She goes on to say that this is not an expression of ego-mania, but rather “a very normal, everyday way of being in the world” and offers multiple examples of how this natural tendency plays out in daily interactions. Her remedy for overcoming our bad listening personas and habits? Simply taking the time to think about and acknowledge that the person speaking is just as important as we are. And if that doesn’t work for you, try cultivating these active listening habits.  


For more news, tips, and articles of interest, subscribe to our blog.

To experience HR technology that supports effective communication and collaboration: sign up for NetSuite TribeHR’s free trial today.

Mediating Workplace Conflict

Posted on by Leave a Comment

Managers, HR professionals, supervisors and team leaders have (at least) one thing in common: at some point in their careers, they’ll be asked to stand in the middle of a conflict and serve as de facto referee. When called upon to settle a conflict between two employees it’s important to have some tools at your disposal that can help you identify underlying issues, come to a workable solution and begin to restore co-worker trust. AHL Referee by Rick Dikeman, Wikimedia Commons Here is one such tool—a six-step process to help you mediate workplace conflict: …

10 Things You Should Never Do in a PowerPoint Presentation

Posted on by Leave a Comment

PowerPoint is still the most commonly used presentation software on the market. While interesting new entrants like Prezi are attracting some passionate followers, for over 20 years, most of us have turned to PowerPoint when we need to put together a slide deck. As an application, it allows you to do everything you need to do in creating an effective presentation. Unfortunately, it also comes with enough bells and whistles to lead you down the path to presentation hell. No doubt you’ve experienced some painful PowerPoint presentations in your time. If you want to be known as someone who …

Presentation Skills - Using the Tools of the Speakers Trade

Posted on by Leave a Comment

In spite of our increasingly digital world, the need for effective presentation skills has never been greater. Whether you’re conducting training online, creating in-house video content for your blog, or presenting the results of a project to your colleagues—strong presentation skills help. In his blog, 5 reasons you need great presentation skills, speaking coach, Mark Kyte, identifies these benefits you’ll realize by polishing your speaking skills: Orator by southtyrolean, Flickr Gain respect from colleagues Build your reputation within the industry Impress senior management Sell [more effectively] to your customers Gain confidence to stretch yourself …

Communication: Words Matter

Posted on by Leave a Comment

We use words every day: in conversation, when presenting to an audience or when we craft an important email. And the words we use matter. Much has been made of the fact that facial expressions, body language and tone of voice contribute greatly to the message we communicate. So much so, that we may forget the importance of the words themselves. Assuming that the intent of any communication, whether written or spoken, is to convey a message and connect in some way, the specific words we use can help or hinder. Use the Right Words One of the more common …

How to Keep Calm and Carry On at Work

Posted on by Leave a Comment

We’ve all seen the T-shirt "Keep Calm and Carry On." The phrase, created for a World War II-era British public safety poster, has been described as “quintessentially British” and has taken on a life of its own as a popular meme. Perhaps its popularity stems from a need for calm in the midst of constant change and information overload or maybe it just makes people think of Monty Python. Keep calm and carry on. Original poster from Barter Books, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain Either way, it certainly serves as an appropriate slogan for anyone dealing with …

Managing Rumors and Gossip in the Workplace

Posted on by Leave a Comment

Rumors Grow, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain Wherever people gather there will be conversation; sometimes (okay, often!), that conversation becomes gossip, which may blossom into rumor. Much like office politics, rumors and excessive gossip in the workplace create a drain on morale that managers and HR professionals must get a handle on. Damaging rumors can cause uneasiness, distrust between management and staff and infighting between colleagues or departments. Allowing negative rumors to run wild is not an acceptable option. The only thing to do with destructive gossip and malicious rumors is tackle them head on—bring issues out into the …

Office Politics: Five tips for Playing in the Mud without Getting Dirty

Posted on by Leave a Comment

Politics in the office is as unavoidable as traffic at rush hour or fireworks on Independence Day. Few people enjoy office politics but, being human, they get pulled into sticky situations in spite of best intentions. Even when inane or petty (i.e. almost always), office politics inject tension, discomfort and drama into the workplace; often leaving employees feeling like participants in some bizarre reality TV show. At worst, office politics are a drain on morale and highly damaging to company culture. Office Politics by David Crow, Flickr Can Office Politics be Avoided? Human nature will always result in differences …

Communicating Change

Posted on by Leave a Comment

Change by suez92, Flikr The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) defines change management as “the systematic approach and application of knowledge, tools and resources to deal with change. Change management means defining and adopting corporate strategies, structures, procedures and technologies to deal with changes in external conditions and the business environment.” [1] In an ideal world, significant organizational change is managed in this pro-active, organized way. More commonly, however, today’s companies are not systematically managing planned change as much as they’re rapidly responding and reacting to external pressures and emerging opportunities on an ad …

Communicating With Purpose

Posted on by Leave a Comment

Lightbulb by Stefan Krause,Wikimedia Commons, Free Art License Whether you are designing a corporate-wide communications strategy, a single marketing video or a conference presentation, it’s important to communicate with purpose—on purpose. When it comes to communication, a little planning goes a long way. Following this simple three step process can help: Define your purpose. Determine your audience. Describe success. Define Your Purpose Think about what you hope to accomplish with your message. What is your objective and what would you like people to do when they hear, watch, or read your message? One useful structure …

Next Page

Experience TribeHR for Yourself
Contact us to schedule a demo of TribeHR.

Book A Demo
The Latest from Workplace Tribes
Talent Isn’t Everything November 26, 2014
Chart an HCM Middle Course: Customization versus Best Practices November 24, 2014
10 Behaviors that Build Trust November 21, 2014
The Benefits of CSR November 19, 2014
Setting Boundaries and Saying No at Work November 17, 2014
Taking Your Vacation Creates Jobs November 14, 2014
Employee Happiness: A Little Goes a Long Way November 12, 2014
10 Tips for Coaching Remote Workers November 10, 2014
10 Behaviors that Kill Trust November 07, 2014
5 Steps to a Healthier Workplace November 05, 2014