Join Brenda Bailey-Hughes for an in-depth discussion in this video Overview: Five listening-focus skill sets/focus areas, part of Effective Listening.
- Let's begin to improve our listening by assessing what you're already pretty good at and where you could use the most improvement. When it comes to listening, there are five major areas of focus or listening intentions. Recalling details, understanding the big picture, evaluating the content, attending to subtle cues, and empathizing with the speaker. As I give a brief overview of each of these areas, rank order them, with number one being your best area of listening and number five being the weakest area in your listening.
Ready? Number one, recalling the details. You know you are great at recalling details if you remember names and dates, very specific information. If you rock at that Trivial Pursuit game, you could probably rank recalling the details as your number one listening skill. Number two, understanding the big picture. Like it sounds, this means you can grasp the overall meaning of something, even if you cannot recall specific details.
Do you know what the key ideas are when you are listening? If so, this is one of your listening strengths. However, if you feel that sometimes you missed the forest for the trees, then this is probably not your strong suit. Three, evaluating the content. This one shifts us out of awareness and understanding of content to judging the content. When you listen to a sales person talk, do you just buy into everything he or she is saying, or does your critical voice kick in and start questioning what you hear? Evaluating content is your strength if you listen with a discerning mind.
Number four is attending to subtle cues. Listening is not just an auditory process. Much of the meaning of a message comes from the nonverbal cues a speaker gives us, facial expressions, body language, tone of voice. So, are you good at noticing and interpreting those body language signals? If so, give yourself a number one on attending to subtle cues. Finally, number five, empathize.
Certain situations call for us to deeply understand the emotional state of the speaker. Rank empathize as one of your strength areas if you are an emotional detective and find it easy to recognize when someone is upset, angry, confused, happy, and so on. If you've left encounters and were later surprised to find out that someone was feeling the way they were, then maybe this isn't your strongest listening skill set, yet.
But in the rest of this chapter, Tatiana and I will describe each of these listening skills in more detail. We'll talk about why the skill set matters to our overall listening abilities, and we'll give you some tips on improving your weakest areas.
- 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