Weekly Thought – January 30, 2024
Fred studied “the question behind the question” long before it became a popular corporate sales training concept. He also was a student of language (spoken and body). He consistently looked to break down the differences between manifest and latent skills. He differentiated them considering the actual words used while latent is looking for what is behind what is being said.
Levels of Listening
I like to consider four levels of listening:
1) The meaning of words – even the meaning breaks down into three distinct categories: dictionary colloquial, and personal. Dictionary definitions are relatively easy. Colloquial expressions generally mean the same to everyone in the conversation; on the other hand, personal words need to be carefully understood. Communication can be hindered when personal words are misused or misunderstood.
2) The choice of words – while the meaning of words is largely manifest, the choice of words moves into the latent category. Word choice can give a rather reliable evaluation of a person’s depth of intelligence, scope of interest, ability to think in principles or techniques, as well as the moral basis of the expression. The choice of words demonstrates the speaker’s emotions. Our feelings show through in the description of individuals and situations. The news media has great skill in coloring reportage by choosing emotionally charged words.
3) The sound of words – a key to masterful listening is shutting out the meaning and the choice and focusing only on the sound. Fox ample, the rhythm many times gives us a cue to the person’s emotional nature, as well as the familiarity with the subject. Coming out of church one day I asked our younger daughter what she thought about the sermon. “Dad, I couldn’t get the words to go into my ears.” Mary Alice enjoys the British comedies, but I am like our daughter — I can’t get the words (probably the accent) go into my ears. Part of sound is the pitch and speed. As the speaker gets more excited the pitch becomes more intense and the speed increases. Tone is another aspect of sound. A nasal tone usually leaves a negative impression. Think of children who whine. Change of pace is an interesting part of sound. Often when a speaker is speaking to an important point will slow down, lower their tone, and change the pace. Sound is a central part of latent listening. Two other aspects are pauses and mistakes. Usually breaks occur when the speaker is thinking about two words or phrases simultaneously.
4) The sight of words – I know we don’t actually see the words, but we do see the physical expression in the gestures which are used. Are they friendly or hostile? Open or closed? What is the facial expression, particularly the movement of the mouth? Do they have any facial tics or body movements which are significant? Other sight clues are clothes and office environment.
In the decades I have studied listening I have seen those who study in order to manipulate, not create more effective communication. It is a method of diagnosis, much like a physician’s. He evaluates in order to treat. Good listeners hear the words spoken and unspoken. We listen to better lead.
This week think about: 1) How much time have I spent developing my listening skills? 2) Who models both manifest and latent listening well? 3) Which situations stimulate my listening abilities? Which hinder?
Words of Wisdom: “Manifest listening is considering what the person is saying; latent is that which is behind the spoken words.”
Wisdom from the Word: “Let the wise also hear and gain instruction, and let the discerning acquire guidance!” (Proverbs 1:5 NET Bible)