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I have long held the belief that good listening is a form of art. That belief has been confirmed for me time and again through literature by licensed psychologists who explain the art of listening. They also acknowledge the rewards to gain from good listening skills as well as consequences suffered when these skills are absent.
Listening well and responsively is an essential skill. It is more than just the ability to hear. It is the ability both to hear and understand. To hear and receive instruction is a must in order to complete necessary tasks in an efficient and timely manner within the workplace. As a Legal Assistant I am performing many tasks during my workday. I am transcribing documents, reading materials, emailing clients, and I am also listening for instructions to be given for specific tasks.
Listening is such a critical skill that companies have made it their business, literally, in order to gain a competitive edge. The customer is always right, as they say, and companies know they have to listen to what their customers want. This is a very effective method of growing their customer base.
This way the company continues achieving their goals remaining successful, and the customer feels listened to and understood. Everybody wins.
The listening legal professional is, however, at a disadvantage. After all, we have as our models for communication attorneys who get paid to valiantly disagree with their opponents. During a hearing, the parties involved are there to hear the other side of the argument, but is anyone really listening to what their opponent is saying? Since both parties have an agenda, they listen while actively preparing their rebuttals while the other party is still speaking. The judge mediates by listening to both sides and then comes to a conclusion based on the evidence.
I have heard of judges listening to one side too favorably and thereby pitying one party in the case a little too much (an injured worker not represented by an attorney, for example). When the listener has an emotional connection to the events or circumstances to which the speaker is describing, the listening can appear to be biased. It is also true that if the speaker is emotional and stressed while delivering their message, it has an impact on the receiver of the message. It may be difficult to hear what the person said because of the way it was said. Message sent is not always message received.
In “Six Reasons People Don’t Listen At Work”…, author Carla Rieger points out key reasons for lack of communication in the workplace:
- Short attention spans
- Too many distractions
- And my favorite: Lack of training, among other reasons.
She makes a very interesting and accurate point when she says, “Few of us were formally taught how to listen. You probably took Reading 8, Writing 11, but did you ever take Listening 10?”
So that means it is up to each individual to take it upon him or herself to become a better listener. It would benefit all of us to do so, especially in the workplace. The little effort it takes to acquire better listening skills is more than worth it when you consider the reward that comes with it: the confidence and trust of your boss in your skills, talents, and abilities. Of course, not listening has its consequences. They include misinformation, miscommunication, missed assignments, missed deadlines, and, eventually, missed paychecks.
Lisa Carter is a writer and Legal Assistant for a Workers’ Compensation firm.
Article cited: Six Reasons People Don’t Listen at Work…and Some Interesting Things You Can Do About It – by Carla Rieger