Reading for Leading #16: The 6 listening filters that prevent us from hearing the full message

The 6 listening filters that prevent us from hearing the full message

Reading for Leading is a weekly leadership tip shared every Monday morning as a pithy suggestion, question or reflection. You can find the whole series here.

In a healthy, well-functioning team each member should be able to speak candidly about their thoughts and feelings about a given situation. Making that possible depends up building trust that their input will be listened to. Really listening requires creating space for the person speaking to express what they need to say and hearing not just the verbal content but also how they are feeling. There are 6 listening filters that can get in the way of this kind of sensitive listening.

“I keep asking if Polly wants a cracker but she never replies…”
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  • Fixing – This is when you jump in with a suggestion such as “It sounds like what you really need to do is email her back with a list of expectations and deadlines.”
  • Diagnosing – In response to the speaker you might say something like “Ah, so the problem with your boss is…”
  • Correcting – Is a response such as “That doesn’t sound like it’s about resources being tight, that sounds like he’s really trying to get you to…”
  • Avoiding conflict – Might include a comment such as “I’m sure everyone really just wants to get along. It’ll probably all blow over in a couple of days.”
  • Defending – Includes behaviour such as “I did what I said I would and delivered the data by Friday – it’s not my fault that the report was late.”
  • Personalizing to your own situation – “Yeah, this sounds like that time when I also had a problem with my assistant when he…”


Do you recognize any of these responses in yourself or others? Next time you’re listening to a colleague can you catch yourself before you respond and identify whether one of the filters might be influencing your interaction?

Source of Inspiration: Speaking candidly is commitment 4 of The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership by Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman and Kaley Warner Klemp.

One thought on “Reading for Leading #16: The 6 listening filters that prevent us from hearing the full message

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