Listening Intelligence Blog

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Listening Intelligence: The Powerful Combination of Active Listening and Cognitive Diversity

Posted by Christina Guarino on Nov 6, 2019 7:00:00 AM

This is the third blog in a series of three that is covering active listening, cognitive diversity, and then how these two components combine to skyrocket team performance through Listening Intelligence. As the last two blogs have described, both active listening and cognitive diversity are important tools to enhance team creativity, cohesiveness, and productivity. But they also carry hidden drawbacks when implemented one without the other that may lead to potential decreases in collaboration. Listening Intelligence merges the high value of active listening and cognitive diversity, fashioning a combination stronger than the sum of its parts.

The Limits of Active Listening and Cognitive Diversity

To offer a brief review, a team that has high active listening skills but low cognitive diversity will likely enjoy a culture of healthy communication, but may lack the divergent thinking supportive of truly creative innovation. Active listening alone can reinforce monolithic thinking.

Conversely, individuals who make up a cognitively diverse team may each hold a unique perspective crucial to the team’s overall success, but when lacking a healthy communication culture, this strength could easily get buried under discordant, siloed thinking that stalls productivity and ultimately threatens the company’s bottom line. 

Listening Intelligence Is Key

So how do we cultivate teams that are cognitively diverse, while simultaneously ensuring the healthy communication necessary for them to flourish? The key is Listening Intelligence, which is effectively the merging of active listening and cognitive diversity. Specifically, it is the greater awareness and ability that arises when we understand how we ourselves listen and then adapt our listening style depending on the speaker and the context. Once we become aware of our listening filters, we can start listening for and recognizing an expanded range of input. Additionally, we can begin to speak into other people’s listening styles to enhance the chance that the value of what we are trying to communicate lands most effectively.

We All Listen Differently

Since listening is a brain-based function and no two brains are alike, individuals actively listen for different types of information. Researchers have identified four main styles of listening: Connective, Reflective, Analytical, and Conceptual, which work together to give us a better picture of how and what individuals listen for in conversation. Every individual uses these four styles of listening throughout their day, but habitually listens through a particular style (or styles) more than others. 

A speaker’s words may hit our ears, but that’s no guarantee we actually get the full extent of what they’re trying to convey. If we can understand the type of information we habitually listen to and for, we can better understand our cognitive biases relative to others on a diverse team. Additionally, since the way we listen is habitual rather than hard-wired, we can begin to make conscious shifts in our listening to expand our range of input, becoming more sensitive to the ways people around us think and communicate. 

How Teams Can Achieve Listening Intelligence 

Ultimately, Listening Intelligence can be developed through three distinct steps. First, each individual deepens their own awareness of their listening style by taking a listening assessment and understanding their profile. This provides the foundation of where an individual is starting from, so they can start to observe themselves and know how to adjust going forward. Second, with this new self-awareness, individuals can creatively adapt how they listen depending on the speaker and the situation. Finally, individuals can utilize their understanding of others’ listening habits to speak into those preferences, maximizing the chance that what they’re communicating is truly understood.  

Whether your team is in sales or you are founding the next breakthrough technology, with Listening Intelligence, you are able to leverage both active listening and cognitive diversity, bridging the gaps that can lead to fractured, dysfunctional teams. Listening Intelligence, then, becomes the adhesive that pulls teams together, allowing them to become productive, cohesive, and collaborative. 

Interested in learning more? Check out our new white paper that goes more in depth into active listening, cognitive diversity, and Listening Intelligence!

Topics: Listening for Business, Leadership, Cognitive Diversity, Communication, Productivity, Performance, Active Listening