6 Interruptions to Listening

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you just did not want to hear what someone was saying? Any of these situations sound familiar?Interruptions to Listening

  • Your least favorite co-worker is complaining about her dreadful week so you pretend to listen when really you are really checked out.
  • You’ve just run into your boss after falling behind on a deadline. She starts talking and you immediately cut her off with “I know, I know I’m behind.”
  • You’re in a team meeting and your peer is taking way too long to express his point and so you decide to finish the sentence for him?

We struggle as listeners because we (consciously or unconsciously) want to control the direction of the conversation. As a result, we interrupt our listening, which makes it impossible for us to fully take in the sender’s message. It’s important to be clear here, that when we talk about “interruptions,” we’re not just talking about an interjection that literally interrupts the sender of the message. We’re also talking about anything that prevents the receiver from fully taking in the message. To be a leader who truly listens to others, we must fully take in the Sender’s message.

When we are truly listening to others, we are giving the speaker control. We are saying, “You now have the floor, and my entire attention is given to you. I am putting aside my opinions, perspectives or ideas, and I’m opening up to hear what you have to say from your vantage point.” When we are operating from this perspective, our intention is to truly listen… to be open to their message and really take it in so that we understand them (personal relationships) and their point of view (context of the organization and other environmental factors).

Gary Copeland, in his “Consciousness, Courage and Communications” discusses interruptions by the supposed listener, and describes a couple of what he calls “personalities” this way:

* The “competitor” is an expert at topping your story with his own success or disaster.

* The “debater”, who is often a defensive listener, is very quick to make you wrong and her right by correcting your facts.

* You may also find the “advisor” or problem-solver, who is never shy about giving you their sage advice (“Let me tell you what you should do…”).

Personify Leadership has adapted and expanded Copeland’s idea of these listening personalities, and we have identified what we call the 6 Interruptions to Listening, or things that prevent us from truly listening.

The Pretender is cunning and competent at creating the illusion of listening when really he is actively ignoring you.

The Competitor is an expert at topping your story with her own success or disaster.

The Advisor is never shy about giving his sage advice.

The Defender is quick to justify, rationalize or explain away her behaviors. Like Copeland’s “Debater,” the Defender may also try to make you wrong and him right by correcting your facts.

The Deflector is quick to use humor or sarcasm, or even change the subject, to purposely derail the message.

The Finisher is eager to finish your sentence for you.

 The 6 interruptions are designed to illustrate preferred behaviors and are not necessarily inclusive. You may even have some of your own “interruptions” come to mind as you start to assimilate this understanding more and more. The idea again is not to conduct a scientific analysis of you and your behavioral style, but more to get you thinking about what you do that you may not realize gets in the way of listening. When we understand what gets in the way, we are far more likely then to prevent the interruption and leverage skills that allow us to truly listen to others.

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