Four Basic Goals of Listening

by | Nov 30, 2022 | Social / Relationship Dimension

People feel the need to speak for many reasons—to share what’s going on in their lives, to explain their thoughts and ideas, to argue for their opinions, etc.

But when we focus on the listening side of a conversation, our goals can generally be categorized into one or more of the following four areas (click on link for more resources)

  • To understand someone
  • To enjoy someone
  • To learn something
  • To give help or solace

Sometimes our listening goal in a situation is clear cut. For example, if you’re attending a class or taking an online course, obviously, your primary goal is to learn something. 

If you’re listening to someone presenting a proposal in a business meeting, your primary goal is to understand what the speaker is proposing.

If you’re meeting a friend you haven’t seen for a while over a cup of coffee, your main goal is to enjoy being with that friend and to listen to what’s been going on in her life.

And if someone you know comes to you to share some sad news that has happened, your main listening goal is going to be to give help or solace.

Of course, there are times when we attempt to achieve more than one goal at once. For example, when a friend is trying to explain his ideas about a particular topic, we might need to primarily focus on understanding what he’s getting at, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy his company at the same time.

What’s the point of trying to identify the proper goal for our listening in a situation? Well, think of it this way. Have you ever been in a conversation and discovered, too late, that you had been listening with the wrong goal in mind? 

For example, let’s say your significant other comes to you, upset and angry about something an acquaintance said to her about an issue. You think that, since she’s mad about what the other person said, she wants to talk about the pros and cons of the issue. So, you focus on understanding the arguments of both sides and offer your thoughts on the topic. 

Big mistake! Actually, she’s more upset about getting into an argument in the first place and how it made her feel. In other words, she’s not focused on the issue at all. That was just the triggering incident. What she really wants from you is for you to listen with the goal of giving her solace.

Good listeners are strategic. They set a goal for their listening that’s most appropriate for the situation. So, if you want to be a good listener, the first step is to get into the habit of asking yourself, in any listening situation, “What am I trying to achieve as a listener in this situation?”

By identifying what your goal or goals are in any listening situation, you can employ the proper listening skills in the conversation and have a better chance of achieving a satisfactory outcome.

Step Into Action Now for Greater Listening Skills:

Write about a situation in which you mistakenly listened with the wrong goal in mind. Describe why you chose to listen the way you did and how that approach led to a poor outcome.

Then, flip the script and write about a situation in which you listened with the proper goal or goals in mind and achieved a much more satisfactory result.

Platinum LIFE Coaching –

Beth Wolfe, Chief Creator and Master LIFE Coach

BW Global Solutions, LLC

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