Listening to Needs

Monday, April 1 2013
Listen_0There are two components to listening to needs:

  1. The skills of listening
  2. The importance of understanding people’s needs


Listening and hearing are not the same thing. Most people are born with the ability to hear; but few of us are truly good listeners. Hearing occurs automatically and requires no conscious effort. If the physiological elements in your ears and your brain work, then the impulses will be received. However, what you do with the impulses after you receive them belongs to the realm of listening.

Listening effectively is a deliberate process and requires that we expend energy. The greater the amount of energy we put into listening, the more effective we will be at understanding and helping others meet their needs.

The diagram below by Kwal and Gamble illustrates the transition from hearing to listening and the comparative energy expenditure across the spectrum. We start with the basic level of hearing, which requires the least expenditure of energy. As we move up the scale of listening we use greater amounts of energy, as shown in the listening level/energy involvement diagram.

Understanding people’s needs require that we listen at the top level, giving full attention to what is being said, and taking time to understand where the individual is coming from, what are they feeling, and what they need.

Satisfying needs

Strong trusting relationships are built when we help people to identify and clarify their needs. Needs arise from a desire for something different or more often or than not from a problem. When identifying needs, based on a challenge, make sure that the real difficulty has been identified and not just the symptom. Ask powerful questions to uncover the underlying issue, dig deeper through skilfully asking “why.”

Listening effectively and uncovering needs is a powerful combination. It shows caring and a genuine interest in the people with whom you work. Well-developed listening skills that include asking good questions, combined with striving to satisfy needs will create long-lasting, trusting relationships with team members, internal colleagues and client/customers.