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What's Your Listening IQ?

Listening IQ

By Linda Sapadin, Ph.D

When people are “crazy in love,” they have the highest listening IQ. They make excellent eye contact, are totally focused on what their partner is saying, are tuned in to the nuances of the conversation, and freely give head nods, smiles and chuckles to show they are listening.

As time passes, people become more relaxed with one another. And when they do, their listening IQ tends to descend. Direct eye contact deteriorates. People “listen” while focusing on other things. Noticing the nuances of the conversation is often nil. Non-verbal listening cues may disappear.

Some of this is to be expected. People don’t listen to each other as intensely as they do when they are “crazy in love.” If, however, your listening IQ slides dramatically, your partner will feel disregarded, disrespected and dismissed. This is serious business, as once it happens the relationship, itself, is in jeopardy.

So, what can you do to prevent your listening IQ from plummeting? Here are some ideas:

  1. If your partner is talking to you, be there. Turn away from your TV, phone and other digital devices. Make eye contact. Not only is it important to pay attention; it’s also important to show that you’re paying attention.
  2. Focus your mind on what’s being said. Sure, you’ve got tons of thoughts, worries and concerns. Do your best to hold those thoughts in abeyance so that you can truly listen to what your partner is saying.
  3. You’re not really listening, however, if you’re racing to rebut your partner’s remarks before he/she is even finished speaking. Or, scouting for flaws in an argument to gain the ammunition you need to beat it down. Or, rehearsing what you’re going to say while pretending to listen. Or, responding with a “yes, but” to whatever your partner says.
  4. If you absolutely need to interrupt, apologize for doing so. If the interruption is done because you need clarity on what is being said, that’s fine. If it’s done to change the direction of the conversation or to beat down your partner’s position, that’s not fine.
  5. Continue to make good eye contact. Do not let your eyes wander to other things of interest.

Do these ideas sound hard to implement? Yes, they can be, especially because we live in an age of quick distractions, short attention spans and instant impatience. It’s a good idea, nonetheless, to try to overcome these challenges rather than to use them as excuses.

Of course, it’s easier to listen to some people than to others, especially when a person just drones on and on. So since listening is a 2-way street, here are a few ideas for raising your speaking IQ:

  1. Though you may have the floor, you don’t own it. So don’t go on and on, creating a monologue rather than having a dialogue.
  2. Know your listener. Some people love to hear the minutest detail of your experience; others just want you to get to the point.
  3. Make sure it is a good time for your listening partner before you bring up a sensitive matter. Sandwich your criticism between a beneficial beginning and an encouraging ending.
  4. Keep your rambling to a minimum. Know what your point is. If you’re not sure what you want from your partner, say that.
  5. Don’t keep repeating yourself. Don’t let a conversation drift into a lecture. Say what you want to say, and then let your partner speak. Remind yourself that, often, less is more.

It’s terribly frustrating for both partners when each one is talking, but no one is listening. What a gift you will give yourself, and your loved one, if you take the time, energy and interest to improve your listening and speaking skills.

Copyright © 2016: Linda Sapadin, Ph.D
Linda Sapadin is a psychologist and personal coach in private practice who specializes in helping people enrich their lives, enhance their relationships and overcome self-defeating patterns of behavior. For more information about her work, contact her by email or visit her website at PsychWisdom.
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