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Active Listening

Active Listening

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Active Listening

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  1. Active Listening By: Carl R. Rogers &Richard E. Farson Presented by: Eli Sadler

  2. A few notes about the authors • Carl E. Rogers • Ph.D. in psychotherapy from Columbia University in 1931. • Began his career as a professor of psychology at Ohio State University in 1940. • Published over 15 books and dozens of articles • First President of American Academy of Psychology • Sometimes referred to as the father of client-centered therapy, he was most well known for his theory of personality development

  3. A few notes about the authors • Richard E. Farson • Got his BA and Master’s degrees at Occidental College where he and Carl Rogers met. • Received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. • Co-founded the Western Behavioral Sciences Institute (WBSI) in 1958 with Paul E. Lloyd and Wayman Crow. • An accomplished speaker, having given several keynote speeches and hundreds of other lectures and all day seminars.

  4. Active Listening • There are many different types of listening skills that apply to the business world • Active listening differs from the rest of these in that the listener has a very definite responsibility: • “He actively tries to grasp the facts and the feelings in what he hears, and he tries, by his listening, to help the speaker work out his own problems.”

  5. Active Listening • Doesn’t necessarily mean long sessions spent listening to grievances, personal or otherwise. • It is a way of approaching the problems that arise out of the usual day-to-day events of any job. • For active listening to accomplish anything, the user must genuinely believe in its principles. • Let’s consider the 2 following situations presented in the text:

  6. Example 1 • Foreman: Hey, Al, I don’t get this rush order. We can’t handle any 50,000 run today. What do they think we are? • Supervisor: But that’s the order. So get it out as soon as you can. We’re under terrific pressure this week. • Foreman: Don’t they know we’re behind schedule already because of that press breakdown? • Supervisor: Look, Kelly, I don’t decide what goes on upstairs. I just have to see that the work gets out and that’s what I’m gonna do. • Foreman: The guys aren’t going to like this. • Supervisor: That’s something you’ll have to work out with them, not me.

  7. Example 2 • Foreman: Hey, Ross, I don’t get this rush order. We can’t handle any run of 50,000 today. What do they think we are? • Supervisor: They’re pushing you pretty hard, aren’t they Kelly? • Foreman: They sure are and I’m getting sore. We were just about back to schedule after the press breakdown. Now this comes along. • Supervisor: As if you didn’t have enough work to do, huh? • Foreman: Yeah. I don’t know how I’m going to tell the pressman about this. • Supervisor: Hate to face him with a rush order now, is that it? • Foreman: I really do. Joe is under a real strain today. Seems like everything we do around her is rush, rush, rush! • Supervisor: I guess you feel it’s unfair to load anything more on him today. • Foreman: Well, yeah. I know there must be plenty of pressure on everybody to get the work out, but—well, Joe doesn’t deserve all the rush orders. But, if that’s the way it is—I guess I’d better get the word to him and see how I can rearrange the work flow.

  8. Active Listening • There are some very obvious differences between these two examples. • The most important thing to notice however is that the supervisor in the second example, Ross, is using the active listening approach. • He is listening and responding in a way that makes it clear that he appreciates both the meaning and the feeling behind what Kelly is trying to say.

  9. What We Achieve by Listening • Individual personality change and group development. • Less argumentative group efforts • Building deep, positive relationships that can lead to constructively altering the attitudes of the listener.

  10. How to Listen: What to Do • Listen for total meaning: • Most messages that people try to communicate have two elements: the content of the message and the feeling or attitude underlying the content. • It is the sum of these two components that gives us the real meaning of the message. • It’s management’s sensitivity to these messages that can transform an average work climate into a good one.

  11. How to Listen: What to Do • Respond to Feelings: • When at all possible, management should try to respond to the feelings in a message as directly as possible. • The content of the message is important, but the feelings associated with the message are generally a far better indicator of what the individual is trying to say. • Ignoring the feelings behind a statement and only responding to the content is a great way to show your employees that you don’t really care what they have to say, and they’ll generally resent you for that.

  12. How to Listen: What to Do • Note All Cues: • It’s important to note that not all communication is explicitly verbal. • Noticing that a speaker stresses a certain point very clearly, or hesitates before starting their statement, can give you just as much information as the content and feeling of the message. • Body language is another very important communication tool.

  13. How to Listen: What to Do • Testing for understanding: • A good rule of thumb is to assume that one never really understands until he can communicate this understanding to the other’s satisfaction. • There are two main techniques to demonstrate this understanding • Restatement: “Simply restating or paraphrasing a message…gives the sender an opportunity to hear in the receiver’s words how the message was perceived” (Knippen & Green 1994). • Summary: “…Involves summarizing the main issue or a series of important points made by the communicator…This tells the message sender exactly what the person receiving the message thinks was important” (Knippen & Green 1994).

  14. How to Listen: What to Avoid • Generally when we come across a person with a problem, our first instinct is to try to change his or her way of looking at things—to get them to see it as we see it. • What we don’t do, however, is realize that under these circumstances we are generally responding to our own needs to see the world in a specific way. • The point of active listening is not to agree or disagree with what the speaker is saying. Rather, you are trying to listen and respond in a way that encourages the speaker to delve deeper into their thoughts and more truly express their feelings.

  15. Problems in Active Listening • Personal Risk: • Active listening requires having a sincere interest in the speaker. Feigning this interest in the speaker will cause him to stop expressing himself freely. • However, if we manage to empathize with and understand a person, we run the risk of beginning to think in their terms instead of our own. • It takes great inner-confidence and courage to risk one’s self in order to understand another person.

  16. Problems in Active Listening • Hostile Expressions: • The listener will sometimes encounter people directing hostile remarks at them. • Difficult to avoid retaliation • Fear of the damage that conflict could do to a situation • Real damage is done by denial and suppression of negative feelings.

  17. Problems in Active Listening • Out of Place Expressions: • When the speaker expresses things that are generally not accepted in our society, it can be difficult as the listener to not block out these remarks due to their threatening quality. • Accepting Positive Feelings: • Managers expected to be independent, bold, clever, and aggressive while showing no real feelings of warmth. • Denying these feelings can harm the individual and be counterproductive to the company.

  18. Problems in Active Listening • Emotional Danger Signs: • The listener’s own emotions can be a barrier to active listening. When our emotions are at their height, it is difficult to set aside one’s own concerns and be understanding. • Defensiveness • Resentment of Opposition • Clash of Personalities

  19. Active Listening and Organization Goals These are all very legitimate questions or concerns any manager might have when faced with the idea of using active listening as a means to solve problems. • “How can listening improve productivity?” • “We have to concern ourselves with organizational problems first.” • “We can’t afford to spend all day listening when there is work to do.” • “What’s morale got to do with service to the public?” • “Sometimes we have to sacrifice an individual for the good of the rest of the people in the organization.”

  20. Active Listening and Organization Goals • However, the answers to these questions are not nearly as clear as the questions themselves. • It is difficult to determine whether or not listening within an organization actually makes that organization more productive. • There are those managers who maintain that there is no relationship between morale and productivity. • At the same time, there are others who prefer to work in a climate of cooperation and harmony without any thought towards achievement or productivity.

  21. Active Listening and Organization Goals • The Golden Rule Approach: behavior that helps the individual will eventually help the work group • Putting the group ahead of each individual don’t not unify the group • Groups tend to feel more secure when an individual member is being listened to and provided for with concern and sensitivity.

  22. Active Listening and Organization Goals • Though it’s not quantifiable, a report from the Survey Research Center at the University of Michigan on research conducted at the Prudential Life Insurance Company lists seven findings related to production and morale. First-line supervisors in high-production work groups were found to differ from those in low-production work groups in that they:

  23. Active Listening and Organization Goals • Are under less close supervision from their own supervisors. • Place less direct emphasis upon production as the goal. • Encourage employee participation in decision making. • Are more employee-centered. • Spend more of their time in supervision and less in straight production work. • Have a greater feeling of confidence in their supervisory skills. • Feel that they know where they stand with the company.

  24. Active Listening and Organization Goals • Maximum Creativity: • Most important unquantifiable aspect of an organization is the amount of untapped knowledge and potential within each individual in the company. • The authors propose that the maximum capacity might be closer to realization if we sought to release the motivation that already exists within people rather than trying to stimulate them externally.

  25. Recent Applications of Active Listening • From 1992-1994, K. Alan Rutter of the University of Portsmouth Business School, UK conducted a study with a group of managers of a UK boat-building company that specialized in producing sailing yachts. • The managers of the company were at a point of indecision and could not manage to agree on a solution. • They had tried the help of other outside consultants before, but with no real success.

  26. Recent Applications of Active Listening • During the course of the study, Rutter realized that he would never be able to understand or view the world in the same way the managers did. • He likened this to trying to “measure clouds.” What he means is that, like clouds, industries and markets are constantly growing, shifting, changing, and moving. • From an outside perspective, it’s very hard to get a firm understanding of what’s going on within an industry without gaining experience within the industry personally. • Rutterrealized that it would be most beneficial to the company if he applied an active listening approach to get the managers to delve deeper into what they already knew about the problem, and allow them to solve it for themselves.

  27. The Study • There were 5 different managers within the company: the managing director, a commercial manager, a works manager, a sales manager, and the office manager. • The problem the company was facing was that it only had about three months of work and then nothing beyond that on the horizon. • The managing director believed the company would only last for about six more months, but only he and the commercial manager knew that.

  28. The Study • Rutter believed that there were three key issues to address that would be necessary for the success of the project: • Managerial “ownership” of the process. • Need for feedback to the managers. • Rutter’s own biases relevant to the study.

  29. The Study • Rutter accomplished ownership by all the managers by always working with them in a group and never on an individual basis. • The meetings were referred to as “strategy sessions” rather than “workshops.” He did this to reduce the likelihood of hostile reactions from the managers at the idea of being “taught” something by another outside consultant.

  30. The Study • The issue of feedback was addressed in large part by the process itself. • Managers are used to getting written feedback to reflect on and consider during decision making. • The question was, how could they capture the entire essence of a very complex strategy session in a practical manner that would ensure the feedback was available within a reasonable time?

  31. The Study • “The solution was to tape-record all sessions and to draw up cognitive maps both at the session and, later, more detailed ones following an analysis of the tapes” (Rutter, 2003). • The detailed maps were given to the managers two days before the next session and were inevitably scrutinized and changed at the beginning of that session. • What they were trying to do was gather each manager’s understanding of the situation and use it to generate a new strategic direction for the company to move in.

  32. The Study • To begin the first session, “the managers were asked to write on a card what they thought the key strategic issues were” (Rutter, 2003). • They were then asked to go around the table reading them aloud one by one until there were no more items to suggest. • The issues were recorded in the chart on the next slide.

  33. The Study • Since “Low-priced competitor products” was mentioned by all 5 managers, it was used as the basis for the cognitive map. • “As the map developed, other issues became embedded within it and showed how they were interrelated.” • “Over the four sessions, the maps were constantly analyzed by the participants and amended” (Rutter, 2003).

  34. The Study

  35. The Study • One of the hardest truths the managers came to realize through these sessions was that the market demand for the type of sailing yacht the company produced was quickly declining. • However, it was due to this conclusion that they were able to develop a strategy that could keep the company in business. • The strategy they agreed upon was “a temporary withdrawal from the leisure sailing boat markets…, and an all out effort to gain Ministry of Defense work” (Rutter, 2003).

  36. The Study • The company was soon thereafter able to secure a contract with the Ministry of Defense to sell one of their newer innovations, a small rigid inflatable boat. • Though previous attempts at consulting had ended in failure, Rutterwas able to accomplish what the others had not. • Through his focus on active listening, he was able to transform five indecisive managers into people that really took the time to listen to what one another were saying in order to reach a common goal.

  37. Conclusion • Using active listening to manage individuals can be a powerful tool in drawing out each one’s full potential. • Managers are increasingly having to deal with people rather than production • When we take a person and make them a manager, they immediately gain new responsibilities. They must start relating to people and their emotions instead of nuts and bolts. • It takes a special kind of person to be an excellent supervisor, and active listening is a great first step towards becoming thatkind of person.

  38. References • Knippen, J. T., & Green, T. B. (1994). How the manager can use active listening. Public Personnel Management, v.23, 357-359. • Rutter, K. Alan. (2003). From measuring clouds to active listening. Management Learning, 34(4), 465-480.