Most of us are guilty of hearing not listening; as we were really never taught in school how to be active listeners…


What does it really mean to be an active listener, an active listener focuses their attention on the speaker carefully not to miss anything, the listener then states what the speaker has said, he does not have to agree with what the speaker says he just states what he says. On the other hand hearing is by default, automatic, it is involuntary in a nut shell hearing involves perception of sound.

Overtime we have developed a couple of bad listening habits; I have given each habit a name:

The Actor:  is a faker a pretender…  you appear as a quiet listener nodding  your head where appropriate, making eye contact and giving the occasional feedback by saying ok ok, huh huh , whoa, that’s great etc.. however  you are not concentrating on the speaker  your mind is elsewhere you are daydreaming you have switched your mental remote to a more entertaining program like what to have for lunch, next exotic holiday, what to wear for your friend’s wedding etc. the person who is faking attention is just hearing not listening.  Faking attention is a habit for some of us.

The Judge:  if you fall into this category you  are opinionated and closed minded and pay less attention to the speaker because you have already prejudged the speaker as wrong, stupid, incompetent or simply beneath you, . You are always critical and judgemental.  A typical example could be a core belief system or a strong prejudice towards a group.     If a person who belongs to that group makes a speech before the person actually open’s his or her mouth you have already pigeon holed or labelled that person… Indirectly you shut your ears to what the person has to say because you have no respect.

The defender (Mr Right): if you fall into this category you will tend to take criticism or blame personally in a most innocent discussion, you will always see it as a personal attack on yourself. You are over sensitive and always find fault on what the speaker said and how they said it.  When you are criticised or given feedback in a constructive manner you use sarcasm, jokes or anger to derail any hint that they may be suggesting the need for you to change something about yourself or how you are doing it. Like saying you have added a little bit of weight you might see it as an attack.

The Interrupter: this category does not allow the speaker to finish their sentences and never ask questions that can clarify what the speaker is delivering, you are too opinionated, only want to give your opinion on the subject and never makes any reference to what the speakers says… you are too quick to lunch your opinion with little concern for the speaker— as an interrupter you may believe you are listening intently and might really but your mind is closed.   Like in an office environment if you are the boss any good or bad ideas are squashed without a thought… Think of ways you have been in this situation where people have or someone has tried to have a healthy argument maybe your core beliefs are being challenged here… do you allow the person to speak without interrupting and forming your opinion?

The Egocentric: if you fall into this category you love to steal the attention from the speaker to yourself a typical example is when the speaker is talking about a holiday they actually went:  like “oh I went to Dubai blah blah blah” before they can get in the last word, you are already talking about your own holiday experience… you tend to always turn the conversation to yourself and always love being the centre of attention. The speaker is left never telling their story…  You keep shifting the topic to yourself.

The Lawyer: You don’t listen because you’re too busy designing and preparing your next comment. You look interested, but your mind is going a mile a minute because you are thinking about what to say next.  The lawyer is planning how they will respond even while you are speaking. A typical example is having a healthy or heated argument. You are not listening only preparing your next answer you miss part of the message and loose the whole essence of the communication/story.

The Advice Giver: giving advice is sometimes helpful; however, at other times, this behaviour interferes with good listening, because it does not allow the speaker to fully articulate his feelings or thoughts; it doesn’t help the speaker solve his own problems; it prohibits venting; it could also belittle the speaker by minimizing his or her concern for a quick solution. Well-placed advice is an important function for leadership. However, advice given too quickly and at the wrong time is a turnoff to the speaker.”

Spend time reflecting on the category you fall under.  How are these bad listening habits formed look out for part 2.