That headline probably didn’t appeal to you that much did it?

Power speaker – yes!

Power listener? Eh, someone else can do that.

Bernie Ferrari (author of Power Listening) lists 6 archetypes of bad listening.

  1. The Opinionater: Three sentences into your address he says, “Look, let me tell how I see it…”
  2. The Grouch: He may not have the right answer but he knows yours is definitely wrong.
  3. The Preambler: More or less gets the answer he wants by the way he introduces his questions.
  4. The Preseverator: (I didn’t understand this one)
  5. The Answer Man: Eager to please, has the answer before anyone even knows what the question is.
  6. The Pretender: Think I know a few pastors like this!

Ferrari (wouldn’t you love a name like that?) gives helpful and entertaining exegesis here. As he says, we probably all fall into all of these archetypes at times given the right (wrong?) circumstances.

Any more you can think of?

But let’s end on a positive note with three presidential examples from Paul Johnson, to inspire us:

George Washington listened all his life because he loved to learn and because he had no overwhelming desire to speak, unlike most of those in public life. One passion a leader should forgo, if possible, is a love affair with his own voice…Washington, happily, liked the sound of his own silence…When I was writing my book George Washington, I failed to come across any occasion when he had deliberately concealed the truth from anyone who had a right to know it.

Calvin Coolidge…was aptly called “Silent Cal.” He listened courteously to all his visitors but would not be drawn out. He said: “Nine-tenths of a President’s callers at the White House want something they ought not to have. If you keep dead still they will run down in three or four minutes.” So Coolidge would remain mute. Slight twitches of his facial muscles spoke for him. He was described as “an eloquent listener.” When he did speak, however, it was the truth.

Considering all he had to do and say, Abraham Lincoln spoke amazingly little. As he put it, “I am very little inclined on any occasion to say anything unless I hope to produce some good by it.” His Gettysburg Address is a classic instance — there is none better in history — of using as few words as possible (261, to be precise) while conveying a powerful message.

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  • Seth Getz

    How about the waiting for you to finish listener – the person who is listening to you and then you can see in their face the moment where they stopped listening to you and have a response ready and are just waiting for you to finish your sentence so they can share what they have thought up.

    • David Murray

      Hmm, yes, I know a few of those too.