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Listen to learn or Learn to listen?

~Vedashree Patankar

Deepa starts out the session by saying ‘Today we shall learn how to listen’. The Learning Monday session is underway, and I think to myself how hard can it be to listen? I’ve done it for almost 15 years of my life through school and college.

But this session would prove just how wrong I was in my thinking.

To start with, everyone was divided into pairs, one member had to speak and the other had to listen intently for 3 minutes. Again, I got excited at the prospect of talking, but my input stepped in to say ‘Hey, the brief is to listen’. But what exactly, am I to do? The gravitas of the situation started to build up.

Teams dispersed into corners to complete the task, once the 3-minute mark was crossed, each team was asked to debrief. The fascinating thing was each team came across different sets of barriers. Points were missed out; some interpretations were made.  Smita derived that there was a difference between listening and hearing, while Sweta and Monica came across some inherent biases in their thinking. On the other hand, Shilpa got analytical and Sudha got empathetic.

Each team utilised their top 5 strengths to glean the most out of the exercise. It displayed the versatility of the strengths and their ability to be permeable in every situation.

What I gathered through this exercise was, that if a simple task given to a group of researchers and non-researchers alike could come across road blocks, what would it be like in a focused discussion or a detailed interview. The respondents would come in with their own baggage and history, how does one deal with that?

Just as if she read my thoughts, Deepa started to explain ORID. A tool to overcome the barriers, to effective listening. ORID – Objective, Reflective, Interpretative and Decisional. This is the grown-up version of ‘Think before you speak’. Paraphrasing it, I would say reflect and interpret before you take any decisions.

As researchers, we must always be careful, never jumping to conclusions but rather walking purposefully towards them.

The session wrapped on types of listening each person undertakes, unattentive and pretending through attentive and active listening and finally Emphatic listening. To be an emphatic listener one must be emotionally connected to the speaker, we must align our mind to be receptive to everything he has to say. This is where we will get the most out of that interaction. It is not a mere tick on the box but rather adding value to your life.

Ultimately this value addition determines the quality of information and in turn your insight, into the psyche of the consumer.

In conclusion, I ‘listened’ intently to what the session had to offer and came out enriched and excited to put my new-found knowledge to the test.

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