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Hearing things people don’t say

Posted by Charlotte Connell | Answering your questions | Mar 20, 2015
I often hear things people don’t say. No, I’m not the Office’s new secret weapon for getting to the truth...

puppy

I'm a performance auditor with a hearing loss who sometimes mishears words or phrases (apparently a friend's husband is a "biohazard").

Asking questions and listening to people is a big part of what we do. It's in our name: "audit" comes from the Latin meaning a "hearing".

When we meet people to hear about what they do or have experienced, or how decisions were made, sometimes we need to take more time – otherwise misunderstandings can arise. For example, taking a moment to check can be the difference between believing someone was stimulating rather than simulating debate. On a lighter note, recently a colleague rather excitedly told me about her new "poopie". Oversharing?! No, she’d actually said "puppy" (and he is adorable).

With Hearing Week in March, I recently shared with my colleagues some of the little things that help people to better hear what's being said and feel more included in what's going on:

  • facing people when you talk to them can make a huge difference, along with keeping your mouth free from obstacles while talking (these include your hands, food, and any pens or pencils you like to nibble on);
  • if you need someone's attention, say their name;
  • it's easier to follow a conversation if one person is talking at a time (we learned this at pre-school but sometimes words just want to burst out – I am guilty of this myself);
  • if asked to repeat something: shouting is rarely helpful, instead say it a little louder and a little slower (trust me, it's just as painful asking again as it is repeating it); and
  • if you are in a noisy space, see if you can move to a quieter place.

In my job, to make sure I've heard others properly, I'm likely to tell them what I think I've heard, summarise at the end of a meeting, or send an email to confirm – this helps to avoid unnecessary confusion or misunderstandings.

Hopefully these tips will help us as auditors to listen and communicate as well as we can. We do care about what people have to say and want to make sure we've heard it correctly.

If you’d like to know more about Hearing Week (23-29 March 2015), or if things are sounding too quiet or distant, check out the National Foundation for the Deaf's website: www.nfd.org.nz

If you'd like to know more about what a performance auditor does, check out Pat’s earlier post: I’m a brain surgeon, me.

Rachel Barnett
Rachel Barnett says:
Mar 20, 2015 06:22 PM
Thank you Charlotte! A very useful post with some great practical tips. We often are told how important it is to listen; it's helpful to learn how to help ourselves be heard.
Graeme Connell
Graeme Connell says:
Mar 21, 2015 05:41 AM
Excellent clarity. The only thing I'd add is to wait until the person has finished speaking before answering.
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