Learners Are Good Listeners

Learners Are Good Listeners

By Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAMTM / Published May 2017

It happens the day we take our first breath—we are born to learn. The desire to learn, grow, and expand our skills, knowledge, strength, aptitude, and relationships is there from the very beginning. As children, we learn by watching and listening; then we mimic, imitate, and parrot what we have seen and heard. We learn how to walk and talk. We create relationships with our parents and other family members, friends, and caregivers. Most of us have experienced the two-year old who asks questions all the time. He or she has an insatiable desire to learn!

As kids, we spend hours playing and talking with friends—the conversations never seem to end. When we date, we ask questions and share our likes and dislikes, experiences, hopes, and dreams. As intimacy develops, we share our fears and failures, but somewhere along the line this inquisitiveness, the desire to listen and learn, wanes. For some, it is more important to talk and be listened to than to listen. Those who have to do all the listening feel more like they are being lectured. When the lecturing doesn’t ever result in reciprocal listening, we stop listening.

Whether a person finds themself on the lecturing side or the stopped-listening side, either loses out in learning. Eventually, it becomes apparent some people haven’t learned one new thing in 20 years. They just keep repeating the same old stories and lectures. Those of us around them feel very lonely.

Since we seem to be born to listen and learn, maybe we should take a moment to listen to ourselves.

  • Do I lecture/talk more than I listen?
  • Do I have an (unsolicited) opinion on everything?
  • Do my (unsolicited) opinions shut down further conversation?
  • Have I learned anything new recently from those closest to me?
  • Have I read a book?
  • Have I researched something on Google?
  • Have I asked Siri a question?
  • Do I know my spouse’s current frustration(s)?
  • What are my children’s current interests?
  • Have I thought about becoming a student of my son (daughter, wife, husband, co-worker, friend) and finding out all I can about him or her?
  • Have I stopped listening and learning?

Even if you consider yourself a good listener, perhaps there is room for improvement. Let’s take a look at being a lifelong learner and the skill of listening.

Listening Skills

The topic of listening is often brought up in conversations of frustration or anger. “You didn’t listen to me!” “You never listen to what I say.” “Did you hear me”? “I told you three times.” Not listening carefully could be the source of many instances of conflict, but sometimes listening really isn’t very important, like television commercials.

So, might there be different levels of listening or need for or opportunities to listen? Yes. There is different listening required for different environments. Listening can be categorized into five levels.


In order to focus on another activity, you are deliberately choosing not to listen or hear any noise or conversation and are deliberately blocking it out. Examples:

  • Conversations that do not involve you
  • Irrelevant conversations, distractions, and background noise
  • Minimal involvement with another person

Passive Listening

The conversation is of low importance. Examples:

  • Socializing, chit chat, or small talk like at a party, ball game, shopping, a movie, etc.
  • You only need bits and pieces of the conversation to be involved
  • Slight participation where a response is not necessary, like a lecture or sermon

Limited Listening

You are being as attentive as you can to a monologue with only an occasional response required from you. Examples:

  • Tuning in and out during a meeting
  • Selectively hearing what relates to you
  • Able to provide feedback where appropriate

Selective Listening

The intention is to pay attention so you can analyze and remember what is said in order to provide an answer or feedback. You are paying attention to the body language of others in the room and their responses. Examples:

  • You are listening to give your opinion in a meeting
  • You need to remember the big picture, concept, idea, or goal
  • At the end of the conversation, you will need to make a decision

True Listening

This type of listening is the highest, most involved level of listening. It demonstrates a form of respect. You are listening in order to learn; you’ll be able to explain what you heard/learned. It involves undivided attention; you are listening to understand, not to be understood (or do the talking). True listening is being able to explain back what you just heard. Examples:

  • Empathy; listening and relating to the feelings or emotions of the other
  • Providing feedback when asked
  • Continuing the conversation by asking questions rather than making statements

True listening is important for several reasons:

  • It shows esteem and respect for others.
  • It takes time; giving time shows you value the speaker.
  • It develops higher levels of expectations, which people are more inclined to meet.
  • It helps develop your understanding of that person.

Hindrances to Listening

  – Already decided or made-up mind
  – Acting before completely listening to or receiving all information
  – Day dreaming
  – Distractions or focusing on other things, such as TV, reading, or people watching
  – Interrupted with distracting noises or conversations; trying to avoid or shut out loud voices
  – Afraid to ask questions
  – Interrupting with questions
  – Challenging the information given; correcting the other person

In Conclusion

I am good at ______________________

But, I could be a better listener if I ________________

It has been said that communication is the giving and receiving of information with understanding. Communication involves both talking and listening.

Remember, it is not so much at what level the other person is listening to you as much as at what level are you listening. You are in the position of leadership, so it is your job to initiate the listening skill. The more you listen, the more the other person will eventually hear. And the more you will learn!

Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM

Florida CAM Schools

Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM™, Professional Development Coach, Florida CAM Schools, LLC, 2501 West Main Street #108, Leesburg, FL 34748, (362) 326-8365, Betsy@FloridaCAMSchools.com, floridacamschools.com.