Listen Through a Window, Not a Mirror

June 18, 2008
What’s a great way to listen to another person? As Michael Wade notes in his article from a recent US News & World Report: 

Look through a window, not a mirror. Don’t assume that the person means what you would have meant under similar circumstances.

Interesting approach, isn’t it? Let’s think about how “listening through a window” might work in practice.

As an educator of students in the Millennial Generation, it’s critical that I listen to my students through a window. For years, if I was planning on meeting someone somewhere, I might say, “We’re going to hook up later.” Now if I was to use the same expression in one of my classes at Georgia Southern University, I’d probably be met with snickers (and not the candy bar) from my students. Why? The term “hook up” has changed over the years. This doesn’t mean that I need to use their language, but I do need to be aware how my choice of words may be interpreted.

Wade contends that there are six ways to be a great listener. Rounding out his list are: 

  1. Listen for a theme.
  2. Recognize that the speaker might not know the real message.
  3. Subdue your ego.
  4. Act as if you are listening.
  5. Use an old investigator’s trick.

In future postings to Listening Matters, I’ll apply many of Wade’s other tips.

So, how can your life change if you listen through a window instead of a mirror? Please share your thoughts by commenting here at Listening Matters. 

Photo Credit: Thanks go to asmundur, who posted this gorgeous photo titled “In the Foyer” to Flickr.

Additional thanks to the International Listening Leaders Institute newsletter. This week’s Listening Leaders Lazer Lessons highlighted Wade’s US News & World Report article.

One comment

  1. I like the metaphor of listening through a window. There’s a tendency to make our own meanings and assumptions from what people say or do. These meanings and assumptions can be far from what is intended. It’s important to not make these leaps without verifying with the speaker first.

    By the way, I don’t remember where (perhaps PR Open Mic?), but I remember you mentioning Andy Wolvin. He was a faculty member and friend while I studied at the University of Maryland. I’m glad to hear that you two are friends.

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