What Does Your Listening Style Say About You?

Last week we introduced a few basic listening skills in “How well do you really know yourself?”.  As we discussed, having awareness around HOW you listen will shape the outcome of your conversations, the building of your relationships, and how you make decisions in your life.  We believe that we choose how we listen at any given time.  How we show up to a conversation or a relationship is a choice that we make.  Although we may not have much awareness around the choice we have made, it will ultimately shape the outcome of our conversations, relationships and lives.  We believe  there are 4 choices of listening, and have developed a model of awareness around the 4 choices of listening allowing us to be intentional about the way we choose to listen.

The example below is based on a client’s experience.

COACHING CULTURE™ Listening Choices: From “Me” to “We”

Listening Choice 1: It’s All About Me – “I”

In the first choice of listening, we listen and think only of ourselves, not the speaker.  Everything that we hear comes through our own lens and experience rather than listening to the experience of the speaker.  In the first choice we tend to be “the fixer/ problem solver” using our lens to tell the speaker what they should do – what YOU would do, rather than listen to what the needs are of the speaker and what they need/ want to solve their own problem.

Example: An employee says to her manager, “I want to take a course on time management to help me be more effective.” The manager’s response: “When I started working twenty years ago, I didn’t need that. I was able to manage my time without taking some course. I don’t see why you need that right now. Our budget is limited and this is not a place where I want to spend money.”

The manager isn’t listening to what the employee has to say, and is only thinking of himself in their response.  He is using his lens and experience to determine what’s best for his employee rather than listen to the needs that the employee feels they have and how they feel they would like to solve it.  By telling the employee what the manager thinks is the best way to solve the “problem”  implies the manager knows what’s best for his employee, and that they are incapable of solving their own problems or understand what’s best for themselves.  Choice one tends to cast blame/ judgment/ criticism when often the listener thinks that they are actually “helping” and “fixing/ problem solving”.   The speaker is normally thinking “wait, I thought this was about ME not you”.

How effective is this Listening Choice when building relationships?

When using this approach, we are inclined to use the word “I,” and will often preface our responses with, “I think you should…,” “I would…,” and “I know…”

Listening Choice 2: You Should…

In Listening Choice 2 we are only focused on the speaker in a way that makes us feel we can help them so they can do the right thing. In this choice, we are fixing them, and tend to be judgmental or critical, since we know what is best for them.

The employee says to her manager, “I want to take a course on time management to help me be more effective.” The manager’s response might be: “You don’t need that right now. You aren’t late for meetings and you seem to be organized. Besides, I can teach you anything you need to know.”

Again, the manager wants to solve the problem for the employee, helping in a critical/judger way while holding the focus on the employee and her problem.  Like Choice 1, the manager is “listening” through their lens and experience only still not hearing the needs of the employee and telling the employee what they think is best for them under the guise of “helping/ fixing” the issue. How heard do you think the employee is feeling?  What kind of message is this manager sending to his team?

Choice 2 is also used by professionals when providing advice; they use their expert judgment to solve a problem. This is also seen with health care professionals who provide a diagnosis and prognosis, and recommend (sometimes in conjunction with the patient) a treatment plan. This is also typically seen in the legal, financial and educational communities. This approach is used when a friend, colleague or family member asks for our opinion and advice on an issue or problem that needs to be solved. This sends the message that the requester respects our opinion. When using this approach, we tend to use the word “you,” and often say, “You should…,” “You need to…,” “You have to…”


In the next week we invite you to bring awareness to your conversations and how you choose to listen.  Where do you find yourself and how are you choosing to listen to others?  What are the outcomes of your conversations?  What does choice 1 and 2 feel like and how are they different?  How do you know when you choose choice 1 and choice 2?  What do you notice about others and their listening, what choice are they making and how is it affecting your conversation?

Love what you see and want to share it with others, no problem!  Here is what you MUST include:

Property of COACHING CULTURE™, founded by Katherine Taberner and Kirsten Siggins.    www.mycoachingculture.com



8 thoughts on “What Does Your Listening Style Say About You?

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