educator, mental health advocate, social entrepreneur, inspirational speaker, author, writer/contributor, program executive, and radio host

© 2014: S. L. Young / Email: info (at) slyoung.com / All rights reserved

Predatory Listening: Are You Guilty, Too?


Have you done it?  I know I have and your friends and family have probably done it too?  It’s something that most don’t like, it’s considered to be rude, and it demonstrates that the speaker’s comments aren’t important, the listener isn’t interested, or there is an uncontrollable necessity to respond … now.

This aggressive communication tactic referred to is ‘predatory listening’.  Predatory listening is a need, a desire, an overwhelming urge, or something else that causes an individual to interrupt a speaker’s communication prematurely.  Ideally, a speaker will deliver their message, the receiver will listen and acknowledge, and then a response will be formulated.  Although, a predatory listener won’t be focused on the entire message, but instead will listen for moments to interrupt, prepare for a rebuttal, or outright ignore any communication sent from the sender.

Predatory listening is a tool that is used too often between friends, with loved-ones, and in business. It’s a damaging tool to effective communication, understanding, or any attempt(s) to consider another’s perspective. Moreover, it can also cause the communication process to take much longer due to an individual speaking over someone to have their message heard.

Conversely, active listening isn’t a difficult skill to master, but it does take commitment by the non-speaking party to allow the speaker to fully express their viewpoint prior to interrupting the communication.

Steps that can be used to become an active listener:

* Pay attention and listen – give the speaker the same courtesy and attention that you would want given to you;

* Maintain eye contact – direct visual alignment between the speaker and the receiver provides a feeling of connectedness with the message;

* Lean inward – the receiver’s body position should be directed toward the speaker, which will demonstrate engagement with the conversation and the speaker;

* Send acknowledgements – use subtle positive body gestures to demonstrate that the message is received, which doesn’t mean agreement; if the speaker cannot see the receiver, then an occasional low-pitch auditory response can provide a similar message;

* Delay any response – don’t be overeager to respond, as eagerness can be perceived as the receiver is preparing to attack versus listening for comprehension;

* Verbally acknowledge – let the speaker know that their message was received by paraphrasing or using parts of their communication in the response;

* Respond – answer any inquires and then add to the conversation, as a failure to address any inquires first can convey that the speaker’s comments weren’t processed or important.

There can be an eagerness – at times – to have an individual’s comment(s) or position(s) heard. However, is the urgency to respond more important than a moment to value others’ contribution to a conversation? Most times it isn’t more important.  Therefore, demonstrate that you’re not someone who is listening just to be ready to attack its prey, but instead give individuals an opportunity to have their communication captured.