The Signs are There

Debra Kurtz copyright 2023

I hear you, I hear you.

But, are you listening?

Some version of this interaction takes place thousands (if not more) of times a day.

Trying to communicate with someone while they are looking at their phone is an observable nonverbal cue.

It communicates that their focus and attention is somewhere else. It implies that your speaking is actually a distraction from something they enjoy more.

This is just one “enemy” of listening as Professors Guy Itzchakov and Avi Klugerdescribe in their many years of research on the power of listening.

High-quality listening entails so much more than sound.

Three factors differentiate empathic and active listening:

Positive intent

Physical cues identify a listener paying attention to a speaker. The body language, tone, eye contact, turning towards the person, or head nodding are all nonverbal cues of attention.

Open-ended questions, gentle inquiry, and “hedging” – asking if we have the correct meaning rather than being insistent or self-directed – are verbal signs.

Humans have an innate need to be understood. The chemistry of two people communicating and the alchemy of understanding make conversation sparkle.

This person “gets” me!

Lastly, positive intent is when one is consciously empathetic. You listen to the speaker with your full attention and gently paraphrase to assure clarity.

Active listening is nonjudgmental, empathetic, and creative.

We provide the proper respectful attitude to the speaker.

Hearing our feelings aloud may clarify ideas or answers that had not been revealed to us in private thought.

We intentionally listen to provide acceptance and understanding.

This dynamic can lower social anxiety, improve misunderstandings, and build trust.

Active and empathic listening from a leader can improve an employee’s job performance, positive behaviors, and job satisfaction.

Being encouraged to speak up and supported creates a positive spiral.

Walking on eggshells and being told not to speak (yes, that happens to workers) creates mental and physiological distress. It is taxing to work in such a tense or hostile work environment.

Communication is an effortful two way-process. Speaking reveals authenticity and vulnerability.

How we listen in the present influences wellbeing and connectedness for future interactions.