The Three Habits Of Bad Listeners

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meetings, communication and listening

I’m home from a grueling day of just about everything a business owner has to do at his shop and I take a few minutes to let the day sink in. One thing sticks out in my mind: the frustration of that day’s communication. And it wasn’t lack thereof! As a team we were effectively speaking to each other, following up excellently in all aspects, asking great questions and our meetings were recently fantastic.

I was exhausted from the different modes of communication it took to reach everyone on the team.

My experience of the different types of listers are different from some of the basic research I’ve done on the “science” of listening but here is one I grabbed from

The three main types of listening most common in interpersonal communication are:
-Informational Listening (Listening to Learn)
-Critical Listening (Listening to Evaluate and Analyze)
-Therapeutic or Empathetic Listening (Listening to Understand Feeling and Emotion)

This is fantastic information but there isn’t enough listening going on around me. Here’s my take on the types of listening most common in interpersonal communication in business:

1. The Listener who is only thinking about what to say next. None of these are great, but this is by far one of the most challenging. I could be in deep conversation about any subject but the main person in the conversation other than me will take most of the time while I am offering whatever solution, story, interesting blurb or suggestion imagining a retort THEN getting excited once they find the retort trying to barge in and push you off your soapbox. It’s half excitement about what they have to say next and the other half is excitement about what they are going to say.
2. The topic hijacker- As a leader of countless meetings, I pride myself on timing them and making sure we stay on topic.

There is nothing more annoying to me than a meeting at a workplace that goes way off topic and worse gets nothing done regarding the original point of the meeting. After listening to points of view of others, the topic hijacker will start off pretty good then lose everyone in an instant when they take the conversation to the moon, the stars and the outlying galaxies leaving us on earth scratching our heads on where that person went. Steering the conversation back is always a challenge because everyone likes the bright shiny objects that fly before our eyes.
3. The agreer. This is┬áthe person around the office that generally listens with a slight grin but a far off look in their eyes. They usually have something to say like, “Yeah, definitely, definitely.”

Of course, this is all mostly just poking fun at real situations. There are obviously truths to the classic classification of the types of listeners in the world. In addition, I am sure that there are many incredible listeners in the workplace and maybe I am just experiencing some abnormalities. As someone that prides myself on being a good, emphatic listener, it’s hard to manage the wide range of listening habits when all I want sometimes is people just to come to my side. That is, to ask follow up questions, be engaging, stay on topic, offer solutions and be present. How much is that to ask?