As part of a book study group, I recently read Power Listening: Mastering the Most Critical Business Skill of All by Bernard T. Ferrari (2012).
What I liked about this book was Ferrari’s insistence on listening being a skill that “demands conscious attention and constant practice” (p. xi). Despite the importance of listening – it’s the only way to find out what you don’t know – there is a gap in the market of how to learn how to do it well. For example, Ferrari highlights that “of the nearly 300 communications courses offered by the American Management Association, only two deal directly with listening skills” (p. 3). This book seeks to fill that gap.
According to Ferrari, good listening doesn’t take time, it buys time because nothing wastes more time than bad decisions. It is with this call to active listening with our conversation partners that he highlights 6 different types of listeners:
- The Opinionator – this person only listens to others to confirm their own ideas and opinions.
- The Grouch – this person is certain your ideas are wrong and has contempt for other people’s ideas.
- The Preambler – this person has windy lead-ins and questions, which are really stealth speeches often designed to box in the conversation partner.
- The Perseverator – this person talks too much. His goal is not to sharpen the focus of the discussion, but to speak in order to sharpen his own point, or to shoehorn his conversation partner’s thoughts into supporting his prejudices and biases.
- The Answer Man – this person starts offering solutions before there is even agreement about what the challenge might be. His impatience is often his undoing.
- The Pretender – this person is not really interested in what his conversation partner might have to say, and so he will listen but never act on what he hears.
Ferrari believes that we might be all of the above in different contexts. As I read about the different types of people, I resolved not to be some of these people!