The HeadScratcher Post Archive
August  2011
Critical Listening
       August 2011 The Headscratcher Post Headscratchers LLC    Edition 73

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3 Reasons why Critical Listening is important

An important aspect of Critical Thinking is Listening. Listening is important for several reasons: To ensure that people are clear about a situation, to understand the thinking of others, and to incorporate that thinking into your solutions. Here is why these are so important:

Ensure that people are clear about a situation. We can't say enough about this. Clarity of a situation is the most important step in Critical Thinking. If the situation, goal or problem is not clear, then the solution or action will most likely miss the mark, resulting in re-do's, budget overruns, missed schedules, or poor quality. The first step in our Critical Thinking framework is Clarity. Listening to others describe a situation, repeating back what has been said, and talking about and listening to the interpretations, is the only way to ensure that Clarity exists.

Understand the Thinking of others. Listen carefully to the description people use to explain how they came up with an idea, or how they figured out what to do, or what their concerns are. If you listen, you'll hear them talk about their experiences, their assumptions, and other components that led them to a conclusion and subsequent decision. Listening will help you understand how others are evaluating information, and the weight they may be applying to this information. If you want to influence the thinking of others, if you want to get others to consider other ideas or possibilities, you need to understand how they are thinking in the first place.

Incorporate the thinking of others in your thinking. By ensuring that people (and yourself) are clear, and by understanding the thinking of others, you will be ready to incorporate that thinking into your thinking. Here's an example: Let's say you are responsible for coming up with a solution to increase production by 10%; or to decrease costs by 5%; or to find out why a defect in a particular product has occurred; or how to increase sales by 17%. Consider this: Is it your responsibility to come up with the actual idea that accomplishes this, or is it your responsibility to ensure that a solution is found? Will your manager care if you invented the idea, or you listened to others and incorporated their thinking and solved the problem? When you're thinking about a problem, goal, or issue, you'll have certain ideas about it, perhaps some experience and assumptions. If you listen to others, you will hear other experiences, and other assumptions. You will hear other interpretations of the issue. MAYBE these are more appropriate to the situation? Maybe their assumptions are more applicable than yours? Maybe it will be you who will be influenced by their ideas.

The Takeaway: You cannot think critically without critical listening. Even if you are working on something by yourself ... listen to yourself by asking: Are you really clear? Are your assumptions valid? Of course, most of our thinking is with others. Listen to them to get Clear, to Understand how they arrived at their conclusions, and to incorporate their thinking into your thinking and solutions.

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