Listener Spotlight: Paul J. Donoghue and Mary E. Siegel
Many of the listening experts that we’ve highlighted on this platform have dedicated their careers and their lives to improving our ability to listen. Paul J. Donoghue is a little different. While he does offer plenty of expert advice on how to listen more attentively and how to comprehend what is being said, much of his work has a more basic focus. In fact, Donoghue and his co-author Mary E. Siegel devote much of their work to simply identifying the problem. In other words, he’s just trying to get people to admit that they don’t listen.
Few people understand that they are poor listeners and even fewer are willing to admit it. “Everyone wants to be understood, but few people feel that they are,” suggest Donoghue and Siegel in their recent book, Are You Really Listening? Keys to Successful Communication. “Surprisingly,” they continue, “most people think that they are good listeners.”
The problem, of course, is that before we can become better listeners, we have to understand and admit that our skills need improvement. “We will become good listeners only when we can acknowledge that we have a lot to learn.” Fortunately, in addition to helping us identify the problem, Donoghue and Siegel also offer several rules of thumb for listening. Quoting from the book (some examples omitted):
1. Make a commitment to listen to this person at this moment.
2. Do not act as though you are listening if your heart is not in it or if the time is not right for you to listen.
3. If you want to listen but are not free to pay attention at the moment, say so, but add that you would like to listen later.
4. Focus on the speaker with your eyes and your body.
5. Focus on the speaker’s feelings, needs, and perceptions or on the information that is being communicated.
6. Register your own feeling and “hold it.”
7. Be aware of your typical non-listening behaviors and try to control them.
8. Offer back what you are hearing in your own words with your voice rising in a questioning tone.
9. Don’t presume what you are hearing is exactly what the speaker is trying to say.
10. Don’t stop listening after your first effort to express understanding. Keep listening until the speaker confirms that you have really understood.
The first step to solving almost any problem is recognizing, then admitting that there is a problem. Our inability to listen effectively is no different. Fortunately, listening experts like Paul J. Donoghue and Mary E. Siegel are actively attempting to call our attention to the fact that we have a problem.
At Ken Garff Automotive Group, we recognized a long time ago that the auto sales industry had a major problem with listening. Since that time, we have devoted enormous effort and resource to solving this problem. Through our “We Hear You” initiative, we have committed ourselves to listening more effectively. It is our firm belief that these efforts have significantly improved the car buying experience.