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Hear What They Mean, Not What They Say
Laura Mixon Camacho - 06/24/12
Have you ever been falsely accused of something really serious? Something that not only you didn't do, but you didn't even think about doing? It's not a fun place to be. In my case, being in that situation led to my understanding of the reality of communication not being only in the words being said. Communication also reflects what's really going on in a relationship.
I can guarantee you that this kind of discussion is only superficial. There is always a more truthful story beneath the story being told in a case like this. If you don't listen well (i.e. strategically,) you'll never know the truth.
Here are 5 detective tools (aka “listening skills”) you can use to unearth the real story.
1. Get beyond the words.
Words are vitally important for constructing reality but communication goes far beyond the words. Nonverbal trumps verbal almost every time. You've probably heard of the famous study by Albert Mehrabian, Ph.D showed that when the verbal and nonverbal aspects of a message do not match each other, in that situation only 7% of the meaning is attributed to the actual words, 38% for voice quality and 55% for body language (including your appearance.) Even if he's off with the exact percentages of establishing meaning, it's indisputable that HOW someone says something is far more important than WHAT they say. Make sure you hear the inflections, sighs and coughs. Be aware of silences and hesitations. Especially in work situations, people will often say what they think you want to hear. You have to be the one to ascertain the truth.
2. Take special note when you hear “but.”
Noticing the use of this little 3-letter word will sharply fine-tune your listening skill. Often, everything said before you hear “but” is simply the reiteration of what the speaker thinks he is supposed to say. After “but,” you get a clearer picture of the real story. This is especially true with upward communication, such as subordinate to boss, child to parent, husband to wife.
3. Pay close attention to the end of the story.
Notice what the person says at the end of a sentence. The normal thing that happens at this point is that the listener is preparing her full rebuttal and not really listening to the last part. Big mistake! "I'd like really like to work with you on this, except I don't have the time." As with “but,” people tend to start off spouting the party line and then toward the end of the conversation get to the part they're nervous about telling you.
4. The real meaning of "should, can't, have to."
When someone uses "should, can't, have to," he means “I don't want to.” (Notice this when you say it yourself.) These words convey a negative perception of a situation. After you hear the “should, can't, have to” part, then you get to know what the person does not want to do. You might then try to find the "reasons why" in the story. Don't be surprised if by this point the speaker thinks you are psychic. (You can thank me later.)
5. Even when they think you're psychic, don't be a mind reader.
You know what they say about the word “ass u me.” Assuming is a dangerous game and easy to fall into. It always helps to verify meaning by asking for clarification or repeating the message back to the speaker in your own words. Again, what a person says and what that person means are not always the same thing. Your beliefs and assumptions filter everything you hear so it behooves you to take the time to clarify meaning.
The best listeners ask questions. After all, the person asking the questions is the more powerful person in the conversation. Become and expert listener by developing the habit of verifying your perception of what the speaker really means.
As the saying goes, “Tellin' ain't selling.” Your listening skills are tools for gaining insight and wisdom, building relationships and being able to think at the next level up.
We'd love to hear your favorite listening skill by commenting below. Are you listening?
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