Chapter 3 – Why aren’t they listening to me? Listening as a superpower and other important skills


Learning Objectives

  • Understand key conflict management skills including active listening, I-statements, asking productive questions, framing and reframing
  • Identify personal listening filters that get in the way of active listening
  • Developing strategies for Active Listening
  • Understand how to frame and reframe in conflict situations
  • Express yourself utilizing I-statements
  • Identify and delivery different types of questions
  • Understanding non-verbal communication and how it impacts conflict


“When someone really hears you, without passing judgement on you, without trying to take responsibility for you, it feels damn good… When I have been listened to and what I have been heard, I am able to reperceive my world in new ways and go on.  It is astonishing how elements that seem insoluble become soluble when someone listens. How confusions that seem irremediable turn into relatively clear flowing streams when one is heard.” Carl Rodgers 

The Importance of Listening

In terms of academics, poor listening skills were shown to contribute significantly to failure in a person’s first year of college (Zabava & Wolvin, 1993). In general, students with high scores for listening ability have greater academic achievement. Interpersonal communication skills including listening are also highly sought after by potential employers, consistently ranking in the top ten in national surveys (National Association of Colleges and Employers, 2010).

Poor listening skills, lack of conciseness, and inability to give constructive feedback have been identified as potential communication challenges in professional contexts. Even though listening education is lacking in our society, research has shown that introductory communication courses provide important skills necessary for functioning in entry-level jobs, including listening, writing, motivating/persuading, interpersonal skills, informational interviewing, and small-group problem solving ( DiSalvo, 1980). Training and improvements in listening will continue to pay off, as employers desire employees with good communication skills, and employees who have good listening skills are more likely to get promoted.

Listening also has implications for our personal lives and relationships. We shouldn’t underestimate the power of listening to make someone else feel better and to open our perceptual field to new sources of information. Listening can help us expand our self and social awareness by learning from other people’s experiences and by helping us take on different perspectives. Emotional support in the form of listening and validation during times of conflict can help relational partners manage common stressors of relationships that may otherwise lead a partnership to deteriorate (Milardo & Helms-Erikson, 2000). The following list reviews some of the main functions of listening that are relevant in multiple contexts.

The main purposes of listening are (Hargie, 2011)

  • to focus on messages sent by other people or noises coming from our surroundings;
  • to better our understanding of other people’s communication;
  • to critically evaluate other people’s messages;
  • to monitor nonverbal signals;
  • to indicate that we are interested or paying attention;
  • to empathize with others and show we care for them (relational maintenance); and
  • to engage in negotiation, dialogue, or other exchanges that result in shared understanding of or agreement on an issue.

William Ury gives us a lot to think about when it comes to Listening.  Take a listen to his Ted Talk the Power if Listening for insights on how to become a better listener.

Material in this chapter has been adapted from “Stand Up, Speak Out: The Practice and Ethics of Public Speaking” is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0


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Making Conflict Suck Less: The Basics Copyright © 2020 by Ashley Orme Nichols is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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