Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Listening - A True Art Form.

As a psychiatrist I would say that possibly the most important, yet also the most under-rated of all skills is that of listening. Important details are gathered not necessarily from great oratory, but by picking up on what the person you are talking to is saying, which give crucial indications that often go unnoticed. When you are listening to someone face to face, it’s worth taking an active part to show the speaker that you are taking in what they are saying. Nodding, responding and maintaining appropriate eye contact can all help. The danger in not listening carefully to what is being said is illustrated by the following somewhat apocryphal transcript of which there are a number of different versions, this one being between a US navy ship and a Canadian authority:

U.S. Navy: Please divert your course 15 degrees to the north to avoid a collision.
Canadians: Recommend you divert your course 15 degrees to the north to avoid a collision.
U.S. Navy: This is the captain of a U.S. Navy ship. I say again, divert your course.
Canadians: No. I say again, you divert your course.
U.S. Navy: This is the aircraft carrier USS Lincoln, the second largest ship in the United States’ Atlantic fleet. We are accompanied by three destroyers, three cruisers and numerous support vessels. I demand that you change your course 15 degrees north, or counter-measures will be undertaken to ensure the safety of this ship.
Canadians: This is a lighthouse. Your call.


lorenzothellama said...

I really enjoy your posts. Sometimes people use slightly the wrong words or expressions when they are trying to explain things. This can throw a whole new connotation on what they are actually trying to say. As a professional, is it easy to differentiate between what is being said, maybe in a somewhat inarticulate way, and what is actually being meant?

jmb said...

Got to love that exchange. Wonder what counter measures were envisioned if it had been another ship. And we are supposed to friendly neighbours!

Big Brother said...

Hey a Canadian lighthouse can beat a US aircraft carrier any day. ;o) You are right though, listening is a lost art. I often watch people talking and you can see that they are not listening to each other, they are thinking of what they will say next. Sort of like two monologues going on at the same time instead of a dialog. No wonder there is so much discord on this poor little planet.

simon said...

I was learning about effective communication today. AS an auctioneer we think we are good communicators,

However I learned about the 150-650 rule. ie, we speak at about 150 words a minute. We can hear up to 650 words a minute, so a listener gets bored easily. To be an effective communicator we should say less, and listen more!

An effective listener is a great comunicator.

Maalie said...

Well said Michelle. Sometimes I feel that humanity is hooked on argument and conflict (one only has to look at the popularity of so-called reality TV shows, not to mention talk-back radio) rather than trying to reach a consensus.

Michelle said...

Excellent post. Mirroring what a person is trying to convey is also an important part of listening as it provides security, and lets the person know you are devoted to hearing them.

Peter Smallbone said...

One of the more useful things I learnt on a course I was sent on was, 'You've got two ears and one mouth, and you should use them in that proportion.'

Ian Lidster said...

The story you cite is a popular one in Canadian military circles and, apocryphal or not, it's still funny, and effective.
People, of course, do not listen because they are so intent on what they have to say so that they can fill in any empty spaces with something much more significant than what has been uttered by the other. I guess that's why protocol demands that one being presented never speaks first to the Queen, and then only responds to direct questions rather than offering a banal, "Yes, Ma'am, and that reminds me of ..." Anyway, if it wasn't for this trait Harold Pinter would have lost his entire creative raison d'etre.
Always thought provoking, Michelle. So glad I discovered your blog.


Maalie said...

Ian, well count me as a rebel, for I asked Her Majesty a question when she came to open a building at De Montfort University :-)

Anonymous said...

You've intrigued us all with this post, and I do find Simon's comment interesting with those figures. I do wish my mother could read this, she is the worst listener ever, unfortunately, I do find it frustrating.

SergŠµy Beloy said...

Michelle, I first heard this joke at New Year's concert of the famous Russian writer Michail Zadornov, - and he was on the prime time TV of several countries, - Russia, Ukraine, etc., - for several holiday's days! But the accent he made was American super self-respect.

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