An Ear for Listening

Shut out for lack of listening.

Shut out for lack of listening.

Communication creates chaos unless you have an ear for listening.

Voices rise higher and higher while discussing an impending merger. The manager’s face contorts in rage. A new employee cowards in the corner. Jill, the only female engineer in the room, seems stunned by the rude behavior which escalates during each meeting. Progress stands still.


We hear words, but do we comprehend?  Listening creates more opportunity for success than talking.  Long ago you heard that two ears and one mouth mean you need to listen more than talk, especially when criticism and conflict intertwine. Angry people hear less compared to the calm individual. Trying to calm an angry person with sarcasm  exacerbates the problem. Neither person hears much.  Management by shouting is irritating, irrational and disheartening for most employees.  Equal frustration results when employees fail to voice opinions for progress.

Roger keeps his head down when the Director addresses the design review. He hopes no one notices, yet the Director depends on Roger for his quiet confidence. The entire group listens when he opens his mouth. His soft, persuasive, humble demeanor requires “active listening.” His voice, body language and the words facilitate the process and understanding of issues. You want to listen when he speaks.

Jane talks without listening.  When Roger speaks, she responds without hearing the content. While he speaks she designs her response, making her comments irrelevant. Her need to be the center of attention disgusts the group today.

Body Language

Listening is more than hearing. When you smile, what does it say?  Is it smirky? Is it a tolerant smile? Is it a sad, depressed expression? A smile is not always a happy smile.  Be cautious with your body language.

Foul language needs to be eradicated from corporate culture as others listen more to those words than the content. Plus, your colleagues may be offended.

Hear the words.  Listen for content. Watch for body language.


Managing a group requires recognizing different styles, which complicates communication. When one person tries to monopolize the conversation, employees sleep, fiddle with phones and affect results. Wherever the conversation takes place, in a crowded hallway or with your five year old, all participants need to be heard.  Bill may take longer to expound. Jill may provide little detail. According to a an excellent website,, listening is 10% words, 40% tone of voice and 50% body language. We need to be patient with all types.

Three Ingredients

Listen, listen, listen to your next conversation. Words offer wisdom but listening requires 1) body language, 2)tone, 3)personality. Heed the reminders and use your ears for more than hearing.  They help you hear, but you must work diligently to listen! You need good ears to hear the words clearly, a good mind to listen intently and ability to watch the body language closely.

And if you cannot hear well, get a hearing test. I heard an audiologist say that people usually take ten years of decline before taking action to hear better. Hearing aids work well, but still requires you listen for content!