Listening Excellence: Are You Historian, Eye Witness, Participant?

Listening Excellence: Do You Listen as Historian, Eye Witness or Participant?

When major events happen, there are participants and eye witness observers. As time passes, there are historians recounting and interpreting. How the story changes in each case can teach us much about listening excellence.

Listening Excellence: Image is Man w/ Record Album w/ ears in the middle.

Listening Excellence: Are You Historian, Observer, or Participant. Image by KT King.

Image by KT King via Flickr Creative Commons License.

Listening Excellence: Participate!

As I watched a documentary about the 70th anniversary of D-Day invasion, it was clear that the number of surviving participants was waning. The true details of what happened at Omaha Beach will pass. The same will be true for 9/11 despite our best attempts to memorialize it. We will be left with historical reports.

This doesn’t have to happen to us when listening to others in everyday interactions. We can capture the truth each time with listening excellence. We can choose to be listening participants instead of eye witness observers or after-the-fact historians.

Historian – Filters That Distort

  • Tries to find and interview surviving participants
  • Pieces together a puzzle from other historical reports and artifacts
  • Result: Understanding not as accurate as the listening excellence of an active participant

Eye Witness Observer – Not Always True

  • Reports what they see as a non-participant
  • Skewed by what they didn’t see or know prior to the event
  • Result: Understanding not as accurate as participating in the moment with great listening

Active Participant

  • Listens directly to details from other participants
  • Hears the emotions of other participants
  • Asks questions that uncovers more from other participants
  • Understands from participants the bigger impact of the story
  • Captures the picture and story in the moment not after the fact
  • Result: Much more complete accurate picture

When we actively listen to others we honor them and their story. We overcome the shortcomings of purely sitting back and observing. We avoid all the historian’s challenges of piecing the truth together after the fact.

What are your best participative listening tips?

From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™

Related Posts:
Listening Responsibility: 5 Reasons People Interrupt Us
Listening Beyond Our Boundaries
Listening Excellence: Unstick From Keywords
Listening Lessons From 3 Laughable Listening Lapses

©2016 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. I appreciate your sharing the link to this post on your social streams. However, if you want to re-post or republish the content of this post, please email for permission and guidelines. Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.

Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer service. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.


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~Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™

2 Responses to “Listening Excellence: Are You Historian, Eye Witness, Participant?”

  1. Alli Polin says:

    It seems these days most of us struggle to be in the moment, giving others our full attention. I love the way you segmented out our ways of listening, engaging and learning about people, facts and our shared reality. When you fully listen, you begin to hear beyond the words and body language, eye contact and the way we interact with the space begins to fill in so much that you’d otherwise miss. It really is a skill to practice and worth the effort.

    Thanks, Kate!! Will share!

    ~ Alli

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Hi Alli,
      Fully listening is the focus for sure. Interestingly, people define fully listen in different ways. Many claim it means complete silence. Others focus on attitudes and thoughts while listening.

      In the end, it means first understanding what those you are listening to define as good listening. Without that component, you miss.

      Many thanks for your contribution to this discussion!

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