By Spencer D Gear PhD
This article was provoked by the need to deal with a woman who sits at our dinner table (I’m in aged care). No matter what I or others discuss, her constant comeback is to give examples from her own life. She doesn’t seem to notice how self-centred her conversations become. Her conversations go something like this:
John: I have a bad chip in my thumbnail that looks as though it will tear away. I need help with somebody to clip the nail and not tare the skin underneath as I take a blood thinner.
Betty: That’s easy. Get one of your carers to do it. Look at my thumbnail that was clipped by a carer. That’s your best step. Another person at the table agreed with Betty.
Whenever I raise a topic, Betty most often goes to her own agenda and is very egocentric in how she responds.
These are my observations of what poor listening does to my communication:
I need eye contact to be maintained. If Betty’s eyes wander, it’s an indicator
she’s not listening. She is on track to give me her examples and not deal with my issue.
One of the best ways for me to know she is listening is for her to engage with me by questioning. I’ve raised the topic of the thumbnail. She could ask: “Since you have problems with the thumbnail on your left hand, why can’t you use the nail clippers yourself?” I’ve tried that but the nature of the nail tear caused me to not cut the nail. That led to her mentioning the need for a carer to do it for me. I’m reluctant to ask a carer as that has led to rejection previously.
I generally find the best way to keep the subject focussed is by questioning the other people. This also keeps the other people on task. Open-ended questions are the best, e.g. What would you consider is the best approach with this thumbnail crack?
Hal Gregersen, executive director of the MIT Leadership Center, said, “It’s really hard to walk into a conversation without my agenda being written on my forehead and your agenda written on yours,” he says. “Unfortunately with the hectic, chaotic, complicated pace of work life today, people are even more committed to getting their own agenda accomplished.”
Tips for better listening
The keys to better listening are to keep the discussion on the other person’s topic and not on your response. Stephanie Vozza gives “6 Ways To Become A Better Listener.”
If you want to get something done, remember that human beings have an 8-second attention span.
It’s difficult to join a discussion, without taking my agenda with me.
Stephanie’s 6 Tips are:
1. Listen to Learn, Not to be Polite.
2. Quieten Your Own Agenda.
3. Ask More Questions.
Listening with real intent means I’m going to be open to being very wrong, and I’m comfortable with that in this conversation, says Gregersen. “In a world that’s getting more polarized, being able to listen is critical to reducing unnecessary conflict at any level, within a team, organization, or on a broader political country level,” he says.
4. Pay Attention to Your Talk/Listen Ratio.
Strive for a 2:1 ratio of listening to talking, says Eblin. “If you’re a note taker during meetings or conversations, try keeping track of how much you listen versus how much you talk,” he says.
5. Repeat Back What You Heard.
6. Actually Wait Until Someone is Done Talking Before You Respond.
This is the message of the Bible in James 1:19, “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry” (NLT). I have broken this command personally, with its severe repercussions in my relationships.
 Stephanie Vozza, https://www.fastcompany.com/3068959/6-ways-to-become-a-better-listener (Accessed 25 May 2022).
 Fast Company, “6 Ways To Become A Better Listener,” Available at: https://www.fastcompany.com/3068959/6-ways-to-become-a-better-listener (Accessed 25 May 2022.)
Copyright © 2022 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 31 May, 2022.