Skip to main content

The art of communication: Hearing is not listening

Written By | Oct 13, 2015

WASHINGTON, Oct. 13, 2015 – In my next several articles, I will focus on communication. I will provide tips on how to be a better listener and the benefits it will bring, on aligning verbal and nonverbal cues and on how to ask the appropriate type of question to get the information you seek.

Simply stated, poor communication can cause havoc and have a negative impact on your your life and career.

We all are pre-occupied with everyday issues. Add multi-tasking and stress and it is no wonder that it may be difficult to pay attention to what’s being said. These all can mean you are likely to have a big communications mess on your hands.

For example, have you noticed a glazed look come over someone’s eyes right when you are in the middle of a sentence? What could be the cause? Might that individual be doing too many things at once while listening to you, causing him or her to lose focus and concentration?

What about when you are stressed? Under stress, our brains function in a way that can cause us to unintentionally block either what we hear or the meaning of what is being communicated to us.

Here are three quick and useful tips for clearing out heads and focusing on what’s being communicated in either direction.

Tip One: Paraphrasing or Restating for Clarification

Hearing is not listening! Perhaps you can hear the words being spoken by someone else. But are you understanding the meaning of what’s being said? Or are you zoning out?

I was recently working with a supervisor on the skill of paraphrasing or restating what has just been said. He was working at the time with a direct report employee whose assignments were repeatedly incorrect. To find out if there was a miscommunication or a lack of understanding, I suggested that the supervisor give the direct report specific directions for completing an assignment and then asking that direct report to restate or paraphrase what was said.

Bingo! Unsurprisingly, as it turned out, the direct report was hearing words but did not get their meaning. The supervisor then understood that it might be a better to give the directions in a different way. The supervisor and the direct report then went through a quick process of paraphrasing the directions to make sure both of them were on the same page. Thus ended those miscommunications.

Tip Two: Focus and Be Clear

Multi-tasking has us all doing too many things at one time. Perhaps in this century it’s hard to believe, but our brains were not actually made to multi-task. When you multitask, you can end up touching upon the surface of several items you are working on, but you often will not be able to gain insight by going deeper. Shallow rather than deep focus and concentration are quickly compromised and miscommunication results.

Tip Three: Bridge to Captain Kirk

Whether you are talking to one of your kids, your spouse or a colleague, be sure you actually tune in. Be present. Be mindful. Give your full attention to the person speaking. If you find yourself drifting in thought, as soon as you realize what you’re doing, snap yourself back to what is being said.

As a coach, I have seen everything from business deals going awry to personal relationships in a mess simply due to poor or broken-down communications. So before you end with communication mishaps, zoom in, focus on the coordinates, and beam me up Scottie!

For more Information Contact:

Susan Commander Samakow, PCC, CPCC
Certified Business, Life & Leadership Coach
Focusing on Confidence & Resilience Strategies, Life & Career Transition,
& Business & Leadership

Certified Mediator

Twitter: @SelfTalkCoach

301-706-7226 & 703-574-0039!/susan.samakow

Ask Susan about the Stress Reducing techniques she teaches: EFT (Tapping)
and Breathing Exercises.


Susan Samakow

Susan Commander Samakow, PCC, is a Certified Business, Life and Leadership Coach. Susan focuses on life and career transition, business and leadership, and confidence and resilience strategies. Susan is also a speaker and facilitator, as well as a Community Content Producer for WUSA 9 TV. She is the former president of the ICF Metro DC Chapter, the largest in North America. Susan’s clients are individuals, any size business and the government. Visit Susan’s website: Susan is on Facebook, Twitter, and Linked In.