4 Keys to Effective Listening that Maintain Mutual Respect

“Respect” does not necessarily mean to admire or even to like the other person, but it does mean to see the other person as worthy of special consideration. Mutual respect therefore means to be considerate of each other as a means of building trust. The primary way that we show respect is through the way that we listen to the other person and the way the other person listens to us. There are four keys to effective listening that impact the perception of respect.

1. Look like you are listening. It has been said that up to 80% of what you communicate about your interest in what the other person is saying is carried by the way you look. This includes appropriate eye contact, facial expression, body posture, arm position, etc. If you don’t look like you are interested and that you are really listening, then the other person is very likely to feel that you aren’t and that is communicated as lack of respect. You may be listening but failure to look like like you are listening is almost always viewed as lack of respect.

2. Ask clarifying questions. One of the quickest ways to demonstrate disrespect is to interrupt the other person with comments or judgement about what they are saying, but interrupting to ask a clarifying question communicates that you are listening and that you care about really understanding what the other person is saying.

3. Paraphrase to demonstrate your desire to understand. Paraphrasing is not repeating back exactly what the person said but rather your understanding of the meaning behind what they said. This, like clarifying questions, indicates that you are interested in truly understanding both the content and intent behind their message and in doing so, it demonstrates respect.

4. Apologize when you are disrespectful or perceived to be disrespectful. Sometimes we say things that are either clearly disrespectful or could be viewed to be disrespectful by the way we said it. In such cases it is appropriate to apologize. We suggest that you use a “do/don’t statement” such as “I am sorry I came across that way. I certainly don’t intend to be disrespectful, and I really do want to make sure that I understand what you are saying.”