Active Listening Requires Your Participation

“Listening is active. At its most basic level, it’s about focus, paying attention.”

– – Simon Sinek

Given the diversity of employees, global teams, and remote work, effective communication is critical.

In research studies conducted by Graham Bodie and Debra Worthington, they assessed four listening styles:

R̲e̲l̲a̲t̲i̲o̲n̲a̲l̲ L̲i̲s̲t̲e̲n̲e̲r̲s̲ – Individuals with this focus naturally connect with feelings and emotions. They are likely to be highly sympathetic or empathetic, more comfortable with listening to the narrative, and are more likely to relate to others as they are more people-oriented.  Human connection is important.

A̲n̲a̲l̲y̲t̲i̲c̲a̲l̲ L̲i̲s̲t̲e̲n̲e̲r̲s̲ – These listeners are paying attention to the facts with a laser-focus on content and validity. Details are important to gain all perspectives and available information to make a fully-formed decision. Information needs to be received in a well-structured way to make sense.

C̲r̲i̲t̲i̲c̲a̲l̲ L̲i̲s̲t̲e̲n̲i̲n̲g̲ – This listener picks up mistakes or inconsistencies. Listening for errors or a lack of logic, they question the accuracy of what they are hearing. They judge the content, the speaker, and reliability. As a result, they may come across as much more skeptical with others.

T̲a̲s̲k̲-O̲r̲i̲e̲n̲t̲e̲d̲ L̲i̲s̲t̲e̲n̲i̲n̲g̲ – This listener wants the outcome rather than the communication. Frustrated by those who take longer to express themselves, they are time oriented. Ticking off tasks and goals, they make quick decisions and are more likely to cut off a speaker. Nonverbal cues will include checking the time, being distracted, or an impatient sigh.

According to research from Graham Bodie, 40% of people have more than one listening style. Depending on the situation, we can consciously choose to adapt or accommodate others’ communication style.

When different types of personalities engage in a dialogue, resentments can build up due to misunderstandings, lack of clarity, or even feeling “shut down.” For example, a task-oriented leader may seem insensitive to the relational needs of an employee or cause them to feel unheard.

To ensure effective listening, leaders may have to work harder, particularly with an employee preference for electronic and virtual communication. Clarification should happen periodically through the conversation. Additionally, if you did not hear something, or your mind wandered, be honest about it. Simply ask the speaker to repeat the idea or phrase; admitting you missed something is human and creates more connection. We are all fallible.

By becoming more aware of one’s own preferred communication style, adjustments or effort can be made to accommodate a variety of diverse opinions, personalities, presentations, or interviews in the work environment.

Becoming more aware of one’s own and others’ listening styles and communication preferences, can help leaders connect with employees more effectively and productively.

Some people send a message before anyone has said a word. Their body language and energy comes across as closed, rigid, or distracted. When someone puts their phone down in a place where they can see it before your conversation, they have already placed their interest and designated attention to the electronic device.

This does happen in check-ins, updates, reviews, and key summaries. If you are the person waiting to communicate, are you willing to speak up? Do you want share your voice or ideas if it seems that it will not have an impact or is not a point of interest to the other person?

Being truly present, giving focus, making eye contact, and asking questions when and where appropriate show that you are paying attention. Learning to incorporate some relational skills into your communication reinforces the ability to be more transformational than transactional in an employee’s work experience.

What listening style do you feel most comfortable with?