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Trevor E S Smith | Are You Listening?

Published:Monday | August 7, 2017 | 12:00 AMTrevor Smith

Listening is often passed over as a topic. Yet, even the most intelligent among us fail to master it resulting in costly misunderstandings and conflict.


Two Examples



#1 Really?


Disturbed by what was being claimed that I had promised, I decided that I would ask someone to restate what they had just heard.

To my amazement, the recounting of what I said seconds before, conveyed almost the opposite of the intent of my statement.

He appeared to be genuine in presenting what he heard.

That highlights the genuine challenge that listening presents. The truth is that we sometimes literally hear what we want to hear. We are so sure about what we expect to hear, that we file the incoming information in accordance with our desires.


#2 Got it!


Another example relates to a leadership exercise in a workshop. I demonstrated one way to get an end-result. Participants were to sit with their backs to each other and one person was designated to give the instructions. I watched in amusement as one executive dutifully repeated the directions bring given by his partner while carrying out the opposite action.

That executive saw what I had done and mimicked my steps by 'hearing' his partner give instructions that followed my pattern. In fact, his partner was giving instructions following another pattern.




Some of the challenges related to listening issues result from the fact that we underestimate the impact of the filters through which we receive incoming information.

We believe that our openness to new ideas and our cosmopolitan world view clears our filters of biases and expectations that impact our listening. Getting rid of ears that hear what they want to hear is not easy.

An interesting test is to reflect on whether you can detect any difference in your mindset as you go through various columnists or talk show hosts. Do you gravitate to some and bypass others?

One really useful exercise is to routinely ask yourself whether your response or reaction was influenced by things stored in your filters.

Push yourself to investigate how the information could have been heard using different filters.

For example, hear what was said in the role as loving sister instead of frustrated subordinate.




Preconceived notions and firmly held positions also cause us to distort incoming information.

We take in information from sources of opposing views with a spoonful of sal, t while we put a good face on anything that comes from our favourites.


Listening Style


Our 'DISC'erning Communication model is helpful because behavioural styles are reflected in how we listen.




Individuals with a preference for Dominance (D-Style) will tend to use keywords, tone and body language to quickly evaluate incoming information. That determines whether to listen actively, support or oppose.

Consequently, it is imperative that you work to get early buy-in if you want to retain their attention.




Individuals with a preference for Inducement/Influence (I-Style) might be drawn to elements other than your core ideas. The onus is on you to present your information in brief compelling packages.




Individuals who have a preference for Steadiness (S-Style) need context and nuances. The infusion of human interest details is an added bonus. Allocate additional time and be patient.




Individuals who have a preference for Conscientiousness (C-Style) need logically outlined, evidence-backed information. Develop your argument by presenting a carefully structured sequence of data and supporting information.


How to improve listening from your style


D-Style: Delay judgement. Allow time for others to make their point or asks questions.

I-Style: Focus on the words. Restate key points. Scribble or make mental notes.

S-Style: Allow some of the story to remain untold. What was, may not be in this case.

C-Style: Communication is between people. It cannot be reduced to either black of white. Accept nuances. Empathise for understanding.

- Trevor E S Smith is a director of the Success with People Academy home the SHRM-accredited 3-D Team Leader Certification: Leading Difficult, Dominant and Diverse Personalities and Certified Behavioural Coach award.The Success with People Academy applies DISCerning communication while improving recruitment and team performance. It prepares personal and team behavioural DNA analyses and 360 surveys on the revolutionary FinxS platform from extended DISC.