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                                                                                 - Roberta Prescott


 

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NEWSLETTERS


Effective Listening: The Dingbat Dilemma
by Roberta Prescott

Remember when TV's Archie Bunker said, "The reason you don't understand me, Edith, is because I'm talkin' to you in English and you're listenin' in dingbat!" ?

Too often we, like Edith, miss the mark in the way we listen.

Do you have any of these faulty listening habits?

  • You’ve misunderstood a request and lost points
  • Your boss asked you for information about a project. You came back with reams of data. She wanted talking points.
  • You’re perceived as a poor listener because you frequently interrupt the speaker. Why?
    • You can’t wait to defend your position or get your point across.
    • You’ve run out of patience, and you want to jump in with a solution.
    • You formulated a reply before you heard the end of a thought.
    • Your response addressed the wrong issue. You heard: “I’m excited about this new project idea … You missed: “ … but our attorneys will never go for it.”

If good listening is crucial to career success, why aren’t we good listeners?

  • We make assumptions about what they mean.
  • We’re thinking about our agenda instead of theirs.
  • We’re mentally rehearsing our answers.
  • We have emotional reactions that sidetrack us.
  • They’re long-winded. Our brain gets full, and we take mental excursions.

Here is a checklist to help you solve the dilemma:

DEMONSTRATE YOU ARE LISTENING

  • Stop multi-tasking and pay attention.
  • Give non-verbal cues such as eye contact, leaning forward and head nods.
  • Give verbal cues such as “mmhmm” and “I see.”
  • Acknowledge content.
    • “Good point.”
    • “Thanks for sharing that. It’s new information for me.”

EVALUATE WHAT THEY SAY

  • Are you overreacting to trigger words such as “this project has failed?”
  • Are they being emotional? You may need to get in step.
    • “It sounds as though this is important to you.”
    • “That must have been upsetting for you.”
  • Keep your focus by taking a few notes.
  • Ask yourself:
    • What is the their main message? Their point of view?
    • What are they saying that you need to know?
    • Why are they saying this?
    • What do they want?

CHECK YOUR UNDERSTANDING

  • When in doubt don’t make assumptions. Ask for specifics.When is “as soon as possible?” Tomorrow? Next week? Next month?
  • Ask open-ended questions:
    • “Can you tell me more about that?”
    • “How will you proceed?”
  • Ask follow up questions for clarification.
    • “What are the options?”
    • “Can you give me an example?”
  • Summarize when appropriate.
    • “Let me be clear. You want these three things … “
    • “This is what I heard … “.

Using these tips will help you be a more effective listener so that you avoid the “Dingbat Dilemma” .

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