In his LMR cultural type model1, Richard Lewis broadly distinguishes between the loquacious Latins and the listening Asian cultures. Similarly individuals can be divided between those who have a preference for talking or listening. I guess influenced from a Dad who was from the “we have 2 ears and 1 mouth in that ratio for a reason” school, I tend towards the latter.
I used to think I would demonstrate my listening through enthusiastically nodding, supporting with "mmmss" and trying to show empathy through giving my story...all of which I still do, but which generally do not demonstrate listening. Deep listening means keeping your focus fully on the other, listening without judgement, being aware of what is being said and of non-verbals ... that’s listening.
Being an effective communicator of course, requires that we are skilled at both - talking and listening. Within that spectrum, we are arguably2:
- listening to ourselves talking
- listening to ourselves listening
- listening waiting to talk
We can recognise these, particularly the latter: those times when we hold our breath and hope that the other person will shut up so we can give our more interesting/perceptive/funny/wise opinion/knowledge/wisdom/experience.
At 13, the adorable Luca whom I have English conversations with, told me that the most important quality in a girlfriend is that she be a good listener. He is not alone: we like it in our partners, our families, our friends and our leaders.
The good thing is that we can all be good at it. Experiencing even the listening capabilities of people with deafness has shown me it to be so.
1. LMR – Linear, Multi-Active, Reactive Cultural Type model for categorising cultures: Lewis, R.D. (2006), When Cultures Collide, Leading Across Cultures, Nicholas Brealey International, London
2. Based on an attribution given to Sue Miller Hurst in Robbins, H. And Finley, M (2000), The New Why Teams Don’t Work: What Goes Wrong and How to Make It Right, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc, California, 140 – 143.
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