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Listening 2.0

Updated: Dec 7, 2020

Listening in the quintessential completing activity; it's what the other person or people (whoever is not speaking) has to do, or give, for communication to take place...If someone speaks but no one listens, the speaker (whether he or she is physically alone or not and regardless of his or her intentions) isn't communicating.  - from Let's Develop! A Guide to Continuous Personal Growth, Dr. Fred Newman, 1994

In this digital age, texting is often favored over speaking, except when we're barking orders at our modern mechanical servants. There have been, of course, numerous debates about the purported loss of nuance and meaning when we type back and forth to each other.

When you are emailing someone, try saying your words out loud as you type them. (If some nearby person gives you an odd look as you mutter, just shrug and gesture towards your device.) For example, if you intend to communicate with a neutral tone, do your words sound neutral when you say them out loud? If your email had a degree of complexity to it, are you as clear and concise as you had intended? This helps build the activity of listening to yourself.

Then there is the activity of listening to another person. During an everyday spoken conversation, try this exercise when it is a friend's turn to speak: Attempt to hear and understand everything your friend is saying, without trying to create the contents of your response in your head as you listen. Can you repeat what was just said to you? Are you curious about what your friend said? This technique may not apply well in a place where your subject-matter knowledge is being tested (a job interview, for example), but learning to add to or complete another person's thoughts can add richness to the lifelong pursuit of more effective communication skills.

By the way, whether or not your conversation is typed or spoken, there is usually no harm in mentioning that you speak English as a second or third language, and often considerable value in having said so. You may, out of genuine curiosity, sometimes need to clarify the questions, instructions and information that come your way from native English speakers. Acknowledging your English-speaking status helps lay the groundwork for your active-listening strategies, such as (yes) asking the other person your clarifying questions.


Sean Garrett Consulting's clients...

...do not suffer from a lack of communication skills. Instead, clients want to know how to develop a communication plan that includes solutions such as:

  • Solutions for common communication problems

  • Strategies for effective face-to-face communication

  • Change management communications that serve the needs of all interested parties

Learn about SGC's services and plans.