The art & science of listening


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The Art & Science of Listening

The Art & Science of Listening

Listening skills for effective communication in the context of emotional intelligenceLifestage, Incwww.lifestage.org1

CThe five domains of emotional intelligence:ommunication

Knowing your emotions. Managing your own emotions. Motivating yourself.Recognizing and understanding other people's emotions.Managing relationships, i.e., managing the emotions of others.

Daniel Goleman, Working With Emotional Intelligence, Bantam Books 2006

2Trust & understanding are fundamental forces in human interactionEmotional Intelligence enables us to appreciate and develop the vital connections between self, others, purpose, meaning, existence, life and the world as a whole, and to help others do the same.

Emotional Intelligence

Establishing trust is about listening and receiving what others are expressing - not necessarily agreeing. 3Individuals who score higher in the ability to perceive accurately, understand, and appraise others emotions are better able to respond flexibly to changes in their social environments and build supportive social networks.Peter Salovey et al, Coping Intelligently: Emotional Intelligence and the Coping Process Coping:The Psychology of What Works C. R. Snyder, ed, Oxf


Well-developed listening skills open the door to:

Greater cohesion among team or group members;

Greater productivity with fewer mistakes;

Increased sharing of information that in turn can lead to more creative and innovative work;

5Listening is the most fundamental component of interpersonal communicationListening is not something that just happens, it is an active process in which a conscious decision is made to listen to and understand the messages of the speaker.

The skills you need

6If a tree falls in the forest and theres no one there to hear itListening the process of receiving, constructing meaning from, and responding to spoken and/or nonverbal messages.

International Listening Association, 1996

7Listening is the connective tissue of relationships Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.Brenda Ueland

8Listening is the conscious directing of attentionListening is about attention to the words and the music of other people and our interactions with them.

Attention is an integration of mental, emotional and physical processes.

The ability to direct and sustain attention is a skill that anyone can develop and is more directly related to emotional intelligence than IQ.

9Types of attentionWhen you actually pay attention to something youre listening to, whether it is your favorite song or the cat meowing at dinnertime, a separate top-down neural pathway comes into play. Here, the signals are conveyed through a dorsal pathway in your cortex, part of the brain that does more computation, which lets you actively focus on what youre hearing and tune out sights and sounds that arent as immediately important. Seth Horowitz, The Science and Art of Listening New York Times, November 9, 2012

Simple or startle as when hearing an unexpected noise;

Stimulus-directed as when we hear our name called or a favorite song

10The music of a person is what is expressed nonverbally When a team member is not on the same emotional wavelength as the rest, the team needs to be emotionally intelligent vis--vis that individual. In part, that simply means being aware of areas of disconnect, misunderstanding or blocks in communication. Having a norm that encourages interpersonal understanding facilitates this awareness and provides a process for dealing with it.Building The Emotional Intelligence of Groups Harvard Business Review, March 2001

11At its core, listening is connecting.The ability to understand the true spirit of a message as it is intended to be communicated, and demonstrate your understanding, is paramount in forming connections and leading effectively.

The Discipline of Listening Harvard Business Review, June 21, 2012

Emotionally Intelligent teams and groups create norms that build trust and a sense of identity among members. These norms are maintained through active attentive listening and response to what is expressed both directly and nonverbally:

Building The Emotional Intelligence of Groups Harvard Business Review, March 2001

12Emotional awareness is directly linked to the ability to focus attentionPerception is influenced by the emotional state of the observer. In other words, how we perceive the world does not only depend on what we know of the world, but also by how we feel.

When research subjects were asked to retell a brief story they had to memorize, participants in a negative mood tended to report details, whereas participants in a positive mood tended to report the gist of the story. Interestingly, in perceptual processing, a similar effect is observed.

Jolij J, Meurs M (2011) Music Alters Visual Perception. PLoS ONE 6(4): e18861. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.001886113

Our capacity to learn and to listen is profoundly impacted by our emotional state

In a study of the effectiveness of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) to learning, its impact was strongly seen in shaping childrens developing neural circuitry, particularly the executive functions of the prefrontal cortex, which manage working memory what we hold in mind as we learn and inhibit disruptive emotional impulses.


Active listening is involved listening with a purpose

Using all available senses to take in the verbal and nonverbal expression of others;

Paraphrasing what is heard to check understanding and ensure accurate perceptions;

Providing feedback through verbal and nonverbal responses to the speaker and the speakers message.

Listening and Critical Thinking Fundamentals of Communication Studies, Chapter 5,

Anyone can improve their active listening skills through either experience or training. Awareness and management of our own emotional life are key to active listening.15When listening to another person:Set judgments aside to take in what a person is saying

Allow others the opportunity of a complete hearing - to go into depth and detail without beinginterruptedDisagree without being disagreeable

Try to understand how the other person feels, and to discover what they want to achieve.

16Attention is a choiceThe richness of life doesnt lie in the loudness and the beat, but in the timbres and the variations that you can discern if you simply pay attention. Listen to new music when jogging rather than familiar tunes. Listen to your dogs whines and barks: he is trying to tell you something isnt right. Listen to your significant others voice not only to the words, which after a few years may repeat, but to the sounds under them, the emotions carried in the harmonics.

Listening is a skill that were in danger of losing in a world of digital distraction and information overload.Seth Horowitz, The Science and Art of Listening New York Times, November 9, 20117Directing attention is a skill that grows with practiceMindfulnessMusicStorytellingMetaphors

18Mindfulness practices strengthen listening skillsStilling the mind involves not becoming distracted by our own train of thoughts so as to remain fully present with others. Being completely in the present moment means giving full attention to the interaction with other people. Yoga and meditation are two practices that help cultivate this core listening skill.

Your Mind At Work: New Ways To Approach Those Niggling Challenges In The Office Mindful, April 2013, p. 55

19Mindfulness cultivates listening skills and reduces emotional stressPractice following a simple behavior (like slowing down your breathing) or object (like the flame of a candle). The repeated return to a focal point trains attention.

To reduce the irritation of others gossip, office politics or difficult personalities: Let others talk about themselves and make it a practice to silence judgment and listen for what causes their pain.

To reduce frustration with lack of progress in self or others: Listen fully to a longer piece of music without doing anything else. Just listen. This helps train the mind and emotions to appreciate rhythms rather than trying to force things.

Your Mind At Work: New Ways To Approach Those Niggling Challenges In The Office Mindful, April 2013, p. 55

20Music and mood are closely interrelatedListening to a sad or happy song on the radio can make us feel more sad or happy. Such mood changes not only affect how we feel, they also influence our perception.

Listening to music that improves our own mood enhances attention and openness to others.

Jacob Jolij, Maaike Meurs. Music Alters Visual Perception. PLoS ONE, 2011; 6 (4): e18861

21In a story, you not only weave a lot of information into the telling but you also arouse your listeners emotion and energy.Stories fulfill a profound human need to grasp the patterns of livingnot merely as an intellectual exercise, but within a very personal, emotional experience.

Storytelling That Moves People Harvard Business Review, June 2003

22 We are wired to connectMRI scans of a p