Join Brenda Bailey-Hughes for an in-depth discussion in this video Clarifying your role, part of Effective Listening.
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- As a listener, your primary job is to be there in support of your speaker. If they want advice, you should give it. If they want to vent, you should just hear them out. If they want your help analyzing, you should do that too. Some speakers are very clear on what your role should be up front. I often hear colleagues say, "I just need to vent." or, "Just hear me out, don't tell me what I should do." or, "Help me think this through." I love these types of prefaces to information, because they tell me exactly what I should be doing in my role as a listener.
What happens when you don't get that verbal prompt? We advise you to clarify your roll early in the conversation. It can be something as simple as, "Hold on, should I be thinking "of myself in your situation?" "Do you want my take on what I would do?" or, "Should I take notes?" or, "You sound like you just want to vent." A simple clarification on your listening role will save you from the miscommunication effects of the Mars and Venus type of miscommunication according to author John Gray.
John Gray suggests that couples get into arguments because men revert to problem solving, when women just want them to be a sounding board. Actually, the best advice I have for anyone regardless of gender, is to know their information-processing preference, and clarify their roles early on. The Myers-Briggs personality indicator, or MBTI, an instrument I have worked with for years, references processing preferences into dimensions.
Valuing logic, some of us instinctly listen to analyze first, use cause-and-effect reasoning, and we listen for the details that may have the most impact. Because of the attention to detail, logic listeners sometimes get criticized as being critical in a listening role. Valuing appreciation, some of us seek first to understand, listen for compassion, want to maintain harmony, and look for how decisions affect others.
In contrast to the logic listeners, appreciation listeners may miss critical information and listen to the emotion first. Knowing your preferred style of information processing, and clarifying your listening role, will help you be the best listener to your speaker. I encourage you to practice listening to people from your opposite value style as often as possible. Ask your clarifying role question early, and be the listener that the speaker needs you to be.
- Recalling details
- Avoiding distractions and the feeling of being overwhelmed
- Clarifying your role
- Using attentive nonverbal cues
- Paraphrasing what was said
- Matching emotions and mirroring