The question of listening

Can you demonstrate effective listening? This question falls within a cluster of behaviours that we call respect and empathy. This is important, because although listening is a skill that you can improve with effort and attention, it demonstrates that it’s part of a broader competency about your ability to genuinely connect with others.

You would be very unusual if you could get better at listening without also improving other linked behaviours such as empathising with others, showing respect for your co-workers, and treating people fairly. Fundamentally, the way people close that listening deficit gap is by genuinely caring about other people and what they’re thinking – good listening is not just a set of skills, it’s a whole outlook. And the net result will be positive relationships with your colleagues and effective work.

Mind the gender gap

There’s one other perspective to think about: gender differences. Respect and empathy are areas where women consistently score higher than men. And this is just as true for effective listening itself. This should be no surprise if you understand that effective listening is simply one aspect of relating to and empathising with others.

On average, men are not as good at listening as women; there are significantly more women who are excellent at this than men, and this pattern is exactly mirrored in ‘poor’ ratings too, where more men than women are rated as bad at listening. And this is probably because men are generally not as empathetic and focused on relationships. That’s just how they are.

Interestingly, women don’t actually recognise that in themselves – on average women are less likely to consider themselves as excellent at listening than men are.

Of course there are lots of men who are great listeners, and lots of women who are terrible listeners. But on average women are better listeners than men. So if you want to learn to be a better listener, pay attention to what your female colleagues are doing right, and tell them what a good listener they are too because they might not realise it!

Thanks to Mark Ainsworth, (March 6, 2013 by ainsworld).

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