In a day and age where we spend more and more time interacting with others through superficial means like the phone and internet, you may feel like you are starting to lose your in-person people skills. Being able to interact successfully in-person with others is critical to building relationships. One of the key components to successful in-person interactions is active listening.
Listening is something we take for granted because it is an ability most of us are born with. However, active listening requires that you actually think about what you are hearing and form thoughts and opinions based on that content. Active listening requires your full attention, which is getting harder and harder to do with so many distractions at your fingertips.
While active listening is critical to the health of a conversation, to keep others engaged and make a real connection, it is important to develop the ability to be a positive active listener. This simply means that you are engaging in the conversation in a positive and helpful way that will encourage the other party to keep talking to you. When trying to be a positive active listener, your goal is to listen without passing judgment or interrupting with advice. Refraining from interrupting with your own thoughts or speaking with unnecessary judgment helps build rapport by encouraging the other person to speak freely and openly without fear or reservation.
Of course that’s easier said than done. It takes practice and self-awareness to become a good active listener, and even more so, a positive active listener. Both are skills, not gifts.
Below are six types of listeners who think they are positive active listeners or just want you to think they are, but are really displaying negative listening habits:
1. The Faker
Fakers are listeners who pretend to listen. Sure they may nod and smile at you while you talk. Perhaps they will add an “uh-huh” or “exactly” here and there during the conversation to feign their involvement, but in truth, they are not actually concentrating on you. They are mostly focused on what they want to say next or on something else entirely. You many find them rude and self-absorbed, making you feel unappreciated.
2. The Intellectual Listener
Intellectual Listeners or Logical Listeners focus on what you are saying. However, instead of openly listening, these listeners are judging your words according to their own perceptions and logical parameters. They are not concerned about the why or underlying emotions behind your words. This can make you feel misunderstood and sometimes even attacked, leaving you unwilling to open up and share.
3. The Interrupter
Interrupters interrupt — they do not allow you to make your point. They also usually don’t ask any follow-up or clarifying questions. Interrupters are solely focused on being the speakers and making their own points. You may not only be annoyed by Interrupters, quickly ending any conversations with them, but will also be less likely to communicate with them in the future.
4. The Rebuttal Maker
Rebuttal Makers listen just long enough to make a rebuttal. The point of the rebuttal is to use your own words against you. While some Rebuttal Makers are trying to honestly make you see a different point of view, many are just being argumentative for the sake of being argumentative. They enjoy proving others wrong. If you are like most people who are uncomfortable with confrontation, Rebuttal Makers will make you feel attacked. Instead of engaging in the conversation, you will most likely become closed off and defensive.
5. The Focus Thief
Focus Thieves, or as I like to call them, Trumpers, are only concerned with your words as a way to get their own messages across. When you say something, Trumpers immediately try to steal the focus of the conversation away from you, pointing the spotlight toward themselves. Some favorite lines are, “Oh, that’s nothing…” or “Here’s what happened to me…” While Trumpers may honestly and unselfishly have stories of their own that are relevant to the conversation, if they grab the spotlight too often, you may start to view them as rude, overbearing, and self-centered.
6. The Advice Giver
Sometimes the conversation calls for giving advice. Fair. However, Advice Givers actually interfere with their own listening skills by not allowing you to fully articulate your thoughts and feelings. Giving advice too soon without letting you vent or finish your thoughts can make you feel as though they are minimizing your concerns with a quick, patch-it-up solution. Without being allowed the emotional release and support you are looking for, you may become frustrated, leaving the conversation feeling unappreciated and misunderstood.
Any of these sound familiar? I’m sure you are thinking of six people who embody each of these six listening styles. After all, they are very common. However, if your goal going into a conversation is to build rapport and leave the conversation with both parties feeling uplifted and understood, you will want to avoid these six habits.
So ask yourself, do I have any of these habits or listening tendencies? Chances are, you do. The first step to becoming a better listener is recognizing any listening habits you may have that will decrease the likelihood that the person you are talking to will continue the conversation or engage with you in the future. Once you are able to identify your own habits, you will be able to modify your approach to listening in your next conversation. This will allow you to start to practice positive active listening and slowly remove negative listening habits. In time, you will notice that you have much more successful conversations with others, which will make you a better and happier communicator.
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Six listening types from ACE Health Coach course material