mouths and earsWe were made with two ears and one mouth for a reason, but assessing the landscape of people we come in contact with, you would likely assume this truth was lost in the process. The mouth works much harder and the tongue wags way more frequently, and many forget that they even own ears. But even those who remember they have two ears, sometimes only listen to prepare for what they will next deliver out of their mouth. Listening, like common sense is becoming a lost commodity. And listening is not just hearing to prepare for your next retort, but comprehending and understanding at a much deeper level.
The term active listening is often used in the realm of interviewing and almost all affirm it is good, but how good are we at it. We must actively employ many skills to listen in a way to understand. Are we just hearing the words or do we understand the totality of the message being conveyed? These sound listening skills are required to insure substantive and quality rapport occurs. It is required to confidently prepare and deliver all necessary and relevant questions, and it is essential for the employment of themes that are personal, applicable, and effective.
We must listen without bias, prejudice, or judgment. We cannot listen through our screen door filter of what is right and wrong in our glass house. It does not matter what our “view” is of the issue; what matters is our ability to understand the person we are interviewing’s position. We are looking to understand their value system. The themes we then employ help them rationalize, project, and minimize their behavior, which makes it easier for them to confess. This provides an “out” for their actions, bad judgment or whatever, it excuses a certain amount of psychological culpability. It minimizes the seriousness of the incident in the interviewee’s perception and allows them to save face.
We must not harshly judge interviewees or condemn their actions. Instead, we must help them justify why a “good person” would make this kind of “mistake.” This process of rationalization creates a non-judgmental relationship between the interviewer and the interviewee which fosters trust.
Everyone through their life experiences (parents, church, society) have developed a moral compass that justify and control their actions. These beliefs form the basis of each of our daily decision making. When a decision is made to violate one, we use the process of rationalization to bring us back into equilibrium with our moral guidelines. When interviewing, it is our responsibility to maintain hope in the interviewee that this equilibrium can be re-established. This hope is what allows them to admit to their wrongful acts.
In this process of theming an opportunity exists for the development of a relationship with the interviewee. This relationship is one of a mediator, rather than an adversary. This allows them to view the interviewer more favorably (or humanly). The interviewee sees the interviewer as a person who faces problems and turmoil in his or her everyday life, just as they do. This creates trust, which strengthens. If this trust does not exist they are much less likely to confess.
Theming also allows the interviewer to overcome the fear that the interviewee has to confess. That fear is based on the consequences of what they did, and what will happen to them. This fear and the issues associated with it must be surmounted before an admission can be gained. If as an interviewer you can keep this fear issue paramount in your mind, the other items in the process of rationalization flow from it.
Our ability to keep the fear paramount in our minds is encompassed in our ability to listen at a level that allows us to fully understand the interviewee. We must understand at a deep and significant level to be able to identify with these fears, and subsequently be able to mitigate them.
Practicing listening, and not just hearing in every conversation and interaction is a great method at optimizing our ability to understand the totality of the circumstances, not just the words spoken. Imagine our homes, our workplaces, our communities, and our world, if everyone practiced listening, and not just hearing.