How to Listen, Hear and Understand

Posted by  Nicole Haefliger

We are in business for people. We’re creating smarter, more connected organizations powered by our enterprise solutions that allow people to make a difference – no matter where they are. Our work will have a positive and bigger impact on everyone who uses our solutions – from students to project managers, volunteers to CFOs.

We are not able to make an impact on real people in real life without investing in the skills and competences of everybody in Unit4 and we believe that by having the best people, we are able to make a difference. We invest in our leaders and equip them with the right tools, skills and mindset so that they there are able to excel. To lead us in the future. Every month, our management will share their thoughts on leadership, team work and management. Enjoy our 3rd blog of this series in which our Global Head of Organization Development, Nicole Haefliger, will share her thoughts on how we invest in learning how to effectively listen, hear and understand.

How to Listen, Hear and Understand – investing in learning and development

Nearly all businesses encourage their employees to speak freely in order to facilitate an open dialogue amongst colleagues. Often, managers and other leaders go out of their way to express the fact that employees should feel free to express their needs and opinions when necessary. People who feel like they have a say in the workplace feel connected, responsible and are productive.

We realize that how we listen to colleagues is just as important as ensuring that everybody gets a turn to speak. Some can make the mistake of listening in a passive manner, not really engaging with the words spoken.

Some examples of passive listening are: listening to a colleague while thinking about something else, allowing someone to speak without responding to specific issues, or hearing the words that someone says within the sole context of your opinion – all of these three situations can be considered passive listening because, in one way or another, it’s disregarded what’s being said instead of fully engaging in a dynamic conversation.

Facilitating Active Listening for a Greater Understanding

We are investing in a work culture in which colleagues offer complete, undivided attention. Without this type of singular focus, the brain is forced to multi-task, reducing the amount of information that a colleague is able to absorb through the conversation.

What we would like to achieve is the following: clearing the mind of preconceptions that may prevent communication is a vital aspect of active listening. We are training ourselves and are conscious not to focus on the rebuttal while listening but instead absorb what’s being said, because otherwise the idea is already started to be rejected without hearing it fully formed.

Combining undivided attention with a mind that doesn’t automatically resist what’s being said leads to a greater level of understanding. When we become proficient at listening actively, team members respond by opening up and providing more in-depth, honest information than normal. In fact, the person speaking may not even realize that they’re motivated to communicate more than usual simply because they are being listened to.

Focus on Third-Level Listening

If merely being present is considered hearing, and actively focusing on the speaker is considered listening, then “third-level listening” can be considered understanding – which is the goal of facilitating conversation. Sometimes referred to as “reading between the lines,” third-level listening is the act of processing the meaning of what the speaker says as the conversation takes place. This quickens understanding by utilizing intuition and attempting to ascertain the meaning of what isn’t being said, similar to how jazz music is sometimes interpreted according to notes that aren’t played.

Despite the fact that we make judgments about what’s being said as the conversation goes on, we develop and learn ourselves to use third-level listening to unearth as much information as possible, to facilitate greater understanding of what we’re trying to say in a conversation.

In one way or another, everyone cycles through these types of communication methods throughout the day, as the brain requires rest from strenuous mental exercise. The best communicators and leaders often appear to engage in third-level listening without much effort, especially during conversations of great importance. In order to truly listen to what’s being said in a conversation, we must first choose to perform active listening, which unlocks a greater depth of understanding among both parties.

Nicole Haefliger

Nicole Haefliger is Global Director Organization Development and has extensive experience in creating organizational efficiency in global organizations that are going through change and transformation. Nicole is passionate about designing and delivering market leading interventions to maximize high performance.