Moving Past Active Listening to Facilitate Communication: Shifting the Paradigm

GearsIn several previous professional positions, especially those in call centers, there has been considerable time spent training people to actively listen.  The problem; active listening can be faked, and fake active listening is as useful as a shower without soap or shampoo.  You might get wet, but you do not feel clean.

Listening has four distinct levels, these are:

  • Inactive listening – Hearing words, seeing written communication, zero impact mentally. Mostly because your internal voices drown out the possibility for communication.
  • Selective listening – Hearing only that which confirms your own voices, opinions, and biases. While others are speaking, you are already forming your response.
  • Active listening – Show the other person you are paying attention, engage with meaning in a reply. Focused upon removing barriers to get your point across.
  • Reflective listening – Paying attention to intent and content, reducing emotion, two-direction as both parties are engaged in achieving mutual understanding.

Tools for listening effectively, which for all intents and purposes, means listening reflectively, requires several tools, along with considerable experience in using these tools.  Customer service focus – not sales in disguise, not having a hidden agenda, and not covertly looking for opportunities to turn the conversation back to you.  The attitude of service – is all about what your intention is after listening.  Sales are all about attitude and winning over someone else; however, how many sales require first being able to reflectively listen; every single one.  Desire – desire determines your choices, your choices form decisions, and decisions determine destiny!

ElectionConsider the press conferences at the White House.  A room is full of people who would claim they are professional listeners, who then report what is being said.  Yet, how many times do you see questions asked with an agenda, personal opinions warping what is said into what they desired to hear, and then reporting what they erroneously heard to satisfy their desires politically; every single time.  Hence, the problems with active listening and how active listening can be faked.  Desire and attitude of service are not being applied to improve customer service focus.

Communication occurs in two different modalities, verbal and non-verbal.  Good communicators adapt their message to the audience.  Adapting the message requires first a choice, determining who the primary and secondary audience is, then focus the message onto the primary audience.  Next, adaptation requires prior planning, which includes mental preparation, practice, and channels for feedback.  Finally, adaptation requires listening to achieve mutual understanding, careful observation, asking questions designed to lead to mutual understanding, and clarifying what is being said to achieve mutual understanding.

Too often, those labeled as “good communicators” cannot listen reflectively.  They have never learned how to use the tools of desire and attitude of service, in a manner that builds customer service focus into reflectively listening.

Leadership CartoonConsider two people the media has proclaimed as great communicators, Presidents Reagan (R) and Obama (D).  President Reagan was listened reflectively, asked good questions, listened to the answers, asked more questions, and then listened some more.  In listening and asking questions, President Reagan built people (customer service focus) and was respected by enemies and friends for his ability to communicate (personal desire determined destiny).  President Obama has been labeled by the media as a good communicator; but by all accounts, he never listened, his questions showed he desired to be heard, and his focus was all on him as the smartest person in the room.  Desire builds an attitude of service, which then forms the customer service focus, which then reflects a desire to reflectively listen and achieve mutual understanding with those being communicated with.

One of the most despicable problems in customer service today is a theme established by Stephen Covey, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”  On a recent issue, a letter was sent to Senator Martha McSally (D) of Arizona, the response has formed the epitome for not listening in written communication as the response had nothing of the original issue even discussed.  The response was a form letter, on a different topic, and lacked any response that the sender had been heard; but, the letter advertised Sen. Martha McSally and her commitment to listening to her constituents.  But, you might say, a Senator is too busy to respond to every communication delivered, a few other examples of both verbal and non-verbal communication failures.

  • Two lieutenants, representing the Department of Veterans Affairs, Federal Police Service, stationed at the Phoenix VA Hospital. Engage a person not wearing a mask.  Body language clearly states they are the authority and will broker no resistance.  The officers spend 45-minutes haranguing the patient before cuffing and frog-marching the patient to a holding cell, where the patient who was seeking services in the emergency room, waits for an additional 60-minutes before being forced off Federal Property.  The patient informed the officers multiple times of their pre-existing condition and inability to physically wear a mask.  The hospital mask policy allowed for a face shield to be worn instead of a mask, and after the patient put the face shield on, the officers continued to verbally engage without listening, until the foregone conclusion of arresting the patient could be justified.  The patient was fined $360.00 (USD) for “disorderly conduct” by refusing to wear a mask.
  • Calling a major cellular phone provider (AT&T) with questions about the price plan. The representative answered every question but needed to make a sale, and their focus was on making that sale, not on assisting the customer.  Not the agent’s fault, the policy of the call center is to up-sale on every call.  If the agent does not up-sale, the call is automatically downgraded in quality assurance and the agent gets in trouble.  Hence policy dictates that the customer not be listened too reflectively as the sale must come before the customer.
  • Hotel check-in, online registration was made specifically for a particular sized bed, but due to late check-in, the customer is not provided what was asked for, and the attitude of the clerk is one of disgust at being bothered. Verbal and nonverbal cues are sending messages that the customer is the problem and is interrupting the life of the clerk.
  • A patient receives a call to make an urgent appointment with a VA medical provider in general surgery. The medical provider has demanded the patient be seen in the clinic, thus negating a phone or video styled appointment.  The patient’s record clearly states the patient has trouble complying with mandatory masking for patients seen in the clinic.  The provider arrives 20+ minutes late to the appointment, and because the patient is not wearing a mask immediately refuses to see the patient, wasting 90-minutes of the patient’s day.  The provider gets off in 10-minutes, and seeing the patient will make the provider late getting off.  Was the mask really the problem; not likely.

Social Justice Warrior 2Not listening is probably the largest social problem in the world today.  Everywhere fake active listening is observed, along with copious amounts of observable inactive, selective, and active refusals to listen.  Some of the problems in improving listening are policies and procedures that do not allow for individual adaptation or situational understanding.  However, too often, the individual choices to grab power, exercise authority, and pass along inconvenience are the real problems in not listening.  Harvey Mackay is reported to have said, “Easy listening is a style of music, not an attribute of communication.”  Proving again that listening is a choice, a personal choice, borne from desire, bred on attitude and reflected in verbal and non-verbal patterns of communication.

The following are some launch points for improving listening in society:

  1. Understand your desire.  Know that your desire choices are determining your destiny.  If your destiny is not one, you appreciate, return to the desire and make different choices.
  2. Practice mental preparation, based upon previous situations, to make different choices. Listening is a voyage of discovery to reach a mutual understanding, but mental preparation is key to safely reach the destination.  Prepare, use a mirror, practice until what currently feels alien becomes familiar.
  3. Reduce emotion. The principle of empathy and sympathy are destroying listening and only reflect the internal voices.  The volume of internal voices is silencing the ability to reflectively listen, necessitating the need to fake actively listening for employment’s sake.
  4. Listen as you would have others listen to you. This is an adaptation of the “Golden Rule” and remains applicable as a personal choice.  How you choose to listen will determine your destiny.
  5. Listening remains the number one tool you control and has application to written communication and verbal communication channels. Body language is a non-verbal communication channel that can be heard as well as seen.  How are you communicating non-verbally, which is interfering with your written and verbal communication attempts?

Listening is a choice.  Listening is hard.  Yet, many people have pointed out that we have two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as often as we speak.  Choose to reflectively listen, choose to reach a mutual understanding, watch your destiny change.

© Copyright 2020 – M. Dave Salisbury

The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the pictures.

All rights reserved.  For copies, reprints, or sharing, please contact through LinkedIn:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/davesalisbury/

What is a Statue? – Knowing the Paradigm

Fallen Soldier StatueIt seems fitting that on the Fourth of July, a remembrance of what a statue is should be described, and penned for all the world to see, to read, and remember.  The world has recently witnessed the violent and unhinged protestors tearing down statues.  Witnessed spineless elected officials taking statues down for every reason but the truth, and we have seen violence when the ignorant mob has been refused.  Like spoiled children without a stern parent to correct behavior, the world has watched; but, does the world remember what a statue is?

A statue is made of bronze, stone, iron, usually a combination of all three, intent to remind the passerby of greatness achieved.  The mob in all its anger and horrible glory would have Confederate statues pulled down as “symbols of racism.”  When in reality, those symbols, were erected to remind us of both the good and the ill found in each human heart.  The Confederate Soldier who fought for his home, his friends, his family, and his way of life.  The Confederate Soldier fought gallantly, bravely, and the American Union is better, stronger, and more powerful with the reminder than without; thus, in times past a statue was built to remember, lest we forget and must suffer a repeat of history.

Pres. Lincoln StatueThe statue of Christopher Columbus so hatefully despised, rudely treated by mob violence and elected official stupidity was erected not as a monument to a man, but to commemorate the birth of an idea and an ideal that became these United States of America, a Free Republic if we can keep it.  Christopher Columbus was a man, the same as those in the mob, he had light and dark inside him.  Who is his judge, who is his jury pool, who has the power to judge his actions; not I, nor the mob who despises and defaces the likeness of a person who achieved greatness through sacrifice.  Thus, through sacrifice, the Great American Experiment was launched.  Throughout time immemorial, the current generation has built monuments, statues, to honor the sacrifice that has brought about greatness.

The sad truth of the matter, the mob in its anger deems themselves powerful enough to pull down those sacrifices remembered, to throw away those sacrifices as if they did not matter, and then has the effrontery to suggest they know better than the entire rest of a civilized body.  The spineless Dane-Geld paying politician deems themselves not the protector of the honor of those sacrifices remembered, but the arbitrator of the masses and the statue is blamed.

Washington at Valley Forge

The statue is blamed and then torn down, cast forever from the minds and memory, no longer an artifact to be remembered, to have stories told, and kept alive from generation to generation as a means of learning history.  No longer to be a symbol of remembrance for sacrifices that led to greatness.  No longer to lift and inspire hearts and minds.  But, the media talking heads will say, “Those statues torn down can be erected some other place, out of sight, in an area where the mob cannot choose to become inflamed.”  In telling this lie, a single truth was sacrificed, but the ignorance and lie remain, to the shame and the derision of those who know what a statue truly is, and why that statue was needed.

The truth is, the mob chose to become angry, to vent their anger as domestic terrorists, not protestors.  The truth is people protest, but when the protest interrupts daily commerce, blocks traffic, starts fires, using the fear of the mob to cause damage and mayhem the people are no longer protestors, but terrorists.  Consider some of the first terrorists in American History, many have been called upon by the media and the mob to justify their actions.  The Boston Tea Party has been called upon to justify the actions of the mob.  However, the Boston Tea Party is but one of the first acts of war that sundered, forever, the hold of the British Empire upon America.  Another act of domestic terrorism, the firing upon of Fort Sumter by Confederate ships as the opening salvo of the American Civil War.  Consider Francis “The Swamp Fox” Marion during the Revolutionary War.  Commander Marion led a guerilla war against the British across Carolina.

Confederate Soldier Statue 2The difference between these early domestic terrorists and today’s domestic terrorists, is not that they won, but that they sacrificed for the idea, they gave all not for a statue or a holiday, they gave all for something better and hoped their sacrifice would be remembered.  Look at the riots in Watts, no statues were erected, the land is blighted, the area almost ungovernable, and nobody remembers the names of those domestic terrorists that started the riots in Watts.

The difference is clear when the statue of General George Washington is looked upon, do you see the first President of America, or do you remember the sacrifice of sitting amongst his men at Valley Forge, having his soul and body scourged by weather alongside how many countless others, but staying the course because he was the leader, and his Army loved him?  Do you choose to remember General Washington as the man who could have been King and the death of the American Experiment had he not refused the third presidency; or do you choose to belittle and bemoan because the General had just as many faults as you or I?  Would you tear down the memory of his sacrifice, which is wrapped in the sacrifices of the entire American Army from the earliest days of America to date, or will you choose to remember?

Columbus StatueJust as the mob chooses to be angry, indifferent, and ignorant, so we must choose at this hour in America.  Do we choose to stand, remember, and honor, or do we allow this American Republic to end like Rome before it when faced with a similar threat from domestic terrorists?  What is a statue, it is a visible commitment that declares for all the world, “Not on my watch will your sacrifice be forgotten, your heritage besmirched, and your honor be for naught!”  Not on my watch will America fall to the byzantines amongst us, who have chosen ignorance and passion over logic and reason!  Not on my watch will your statue fall without mourning and a burning desire to see your statue returned to its place of prominence and glory!

A statue is not to remember a single individual, but a moment when people pulled together to achieve greatness, sacrificed personal interest, using character and fortitude to stay until the job was done.  Christopher Columbus would have never left Spain with the sailors doing their tasks individually, and together they achieved greatness.  The statues of Christopher Columbus are not erected to a man, they were erected to a memory, an event, and a promise of desiring to discover, learn, and grow.

What is a statue; it is a commitment, it is a pledge, it is a solemn vow, it is a means of remembering.  A statue is not the property of the government, it is the hearts of the people displayed.  A statue is the reminder of the good that comes from reaching ever upward, for desiring our children to be better today, then we were yesterday, so their children may attain greatness tomorrow.  What is a statue; it is a visible reminder of all the good one man, woman, or child can do when they believe in something bigger than they are.

What is a statue; it is America, the individual citizens, promising…

We Will Not Forget!

© Copyright 2020 – M. Dave Salisbury

The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the pictures.

All rights reserved.  For copies, reprints, or sharing, please contact through LinkedIn:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/davesalisbury/