MORE COMMON ERRORS IN ACTIVE LISTENING
- THE NUMBER ON ERROR!: Using Active Listening when the other person's behavior is in the bottom part of the listener's Behavior Window. Nothing turns people off to Active Listening like trying to use it when another person's behavior is unacceptable to you. (An absurd example: Responding to repeated kicks in the shin with, "I get that you're feeling pretty hostile to me.") The usual cause of this unfortunate misuse of the skills is fear of confronting.
- Using Active Listening when you have some behavior objective or the other (to cheer up, work harder, come to a realization, etc.) This also is caused by fear of confronting.
- Using Active Listening when the others requesting specific help or information that you have and they don't, i.e., in cases of legitimate dependency. For example, "Where are the scissors?" "What's for dinner?" "I need directions on how to get there."
- Feeding back the sender's message without including the appropriate nonverbal cues. This may occur because the listener feels too self-conscious to send them or feels it necessary to play some detached, "professional" role. But failure to approximate the tone of voice and body language appropriate to the feedback is received by the other as a denial of the feeling portions of his/her original message. Again, the naked words aren't enough.
- Falling into the habit of using exactly the same phrase to start all your feedbacks (such as, "What I hear you saying is.."). This can get annoying fast. Use such phrases sparingly. One durable alternative is frequently to start simply with "You..." or "You're..." ("You wish you could help more." "You're pretty discouraged.")
- Using Active Listening as a shield against another's anger at you. One or two good, very empathic feedbacks of the first onslaught can be helpful to both of you. ("Boy, you're really mad at me over this issue!") But after that, Active Listening will be seen as an infuriating attempt to dodge the anger. Switch to taking appropriate responsibility and problem solving.
- Using Active Listening to gather enough data that you can then move in with judgment, advice and solutions. The other person will not soon again come to you to be listened to.
- Using Active Listening to draw people out, invade their privacy. Remember that the sender owns the conversation and decides when it's to go on and when it's to stop.
- Feeding back everything. Don't forget concerned silence (good during pauses or other's crying or sad silence) and simple acknowledgments, such as "Yeah," "Hmm," and "Uh huh" (good when other's code is crystal clear).
Simply reading through and understanding this list of the most common errors of Active Listening will sensitize you to many of them and help you avoid them. Another good use of this list is to return to it at times when your Active Listening has not been very effective or well received. At such times, one of these errors may stand out as the cause of your difficulty and put you back on track.*
*Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's F.E.T. Adult Resource Book