All of us are guilty of jumping to conclusions at one time or another. This is a main reason to why we, as a society, don’t talk less and listen more. Todd Davis, author of GET BETTER, shares his insight into autobiographical listening and why we should hear someone out before interjecting with our opinions.
Besides our crazy, busy lives, what else causes us to talk more and listen less? Let me offer a few ideas:
- We’re trained to talk more. As was stated earlier, we take all sorts of classes to become better communicators, speakers, or more persuasive negotiators. But we rarely take classes on how to listen.
- We’re fixers by nature. Most of us want to jump to a solution as soon as possible. And not with malicious intent; we just want to help. We tend to acknowledge the fixers as those worthy of praise.
- The world is in a hurry. In today’s world, we live in a sound-bite society. Information is coming at us twenty-four/ seven. All of our communication styles have devolved into “How fast can we communicate?” And it’s become almost commonplace to see how fast we can interrupt each other.
- We want to be right. Dr. Covey summed it up this way: “If you’re like most people, you want to seek first to be understood; you want to get your point across. And in doing so, you may ignore the other person completely, pretend that you’re listening, selectively hear only certain parts of the conversation, or attentively focus on only the words being said, but miss the meaning entirely. Most people listen with the intent to reply, not to understand.”
Many of these reasons can be summed up in what we at FranklinCovey call autobiographical listening. Simply put, everything you think and say comes from your point of view. You listen to yourself (your own story) while others are talking, preparing in your mind what you want to say or what you want to ask. You filter everything you hear through your own experiences. And then you check what you hear against your own story to see how it compares. When you engage in autobiographical listening, you end up deciding prematurely what people mean before they finish talking, which can create huge communication divides.
Autobiographical listening can lead to giving people advice before they’ve asked for it:
“Oh, I had that same problem a few years ago, and what I did was . . .”
“I think you’re ignoring the facts.” “When I had your job, I just told them to . . .”
“If I were you, I would prepare the meeting this way . . .”
Autobiographical listening can lead to asking too many questions—not to get more understanding on an issue, but to satisfy our own curiosity:
“So where were you when this happened?”
“Why did you say that?”
“What were you trying to accomplish by using that approach?”
Unfortunately, when we filter what others say through our own stories and experiences, we draw conclusions based on what we might do or feel in the same situation. Or worse, because we might be uncomfortable with the situation, we prescribe a solution that makes us feel better. We’re often afraid that if we listen too closely, we may be influenced and not get our way. While it’s natural to do so, jumping to conclusions or replying too soon with advice can make people feel like we are judging or evaluating them—certainly not listening to them. It can also make people dig in their heels even more, investing in their own point of view and being less open to looking at other alternatives.
For more listening tips check out GET BETTER by Todd Davis!
Tips on Life & Love: Here’s Why You Should Talk Less
Excerpted from Get Better by Todd Davis. Copyright © 2017 by the author. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.
Photo by Trung Thanh on Unsplash.