Communication Intelligence: How Would You Rate Your Listening Skills?

listening 3The media is flooded with research and articles on Intelligence Quotient (IQ), Emotional Intelligence/Quotient (EI/EQ), and their role in personal life success.  On the contrary, few studies have mentioned the importance of Communication Quotient/Intelligence (CQ/I).  Whereas IQ measures mental capacity to learn and EQ the use of emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, CI reflects the ability to communicate effectively.  Communication intelligence is a complex concept encompassing both effective speaking and listening skills.

In American culture, extroversion is valued more than introversion and speaking is emphasized over listening.  For those who may not have thought about this concept, I would ask, “When was the last time you were complimented for being a good listener?”  Perhaps the only time you can recall was as a child, when your parent thanked you for listening and doing what you were asked after behavior to the contrary.  More likely than not, you have complimented colleagues and friends on a giving a powerful speech or presentation and leading a great discussion.  Have you complimented a peer for listening well?  Whether the environment is school, work, or home, there are few rewards for listening well and in contrast typically punishments or negative repercussions.

Listening TableNot only are people not rewarded for good listening, they are generally not highly skilled at it.  Why? I would propose, because effective listening is rarely taught.  Burley-Allen (1995) compared four communication modes with their percentage of time used and formal years of training.  Although the majority of communication (40%) is spent in listening mode, the American education system spends a fraction of the time teaching effective listening skills. Instead, most of our learning is modeled by our parents in early childhood and reflected in our reward and punishment patterns.  Our communication intelligence is built on the socialization process started in our families.

Listening is a skill that everyone can improve upon.  You first need to understand where you are on the listening effectiveness continuum.  Step one is gaining self-knowledge: being aware of your listening abilities and evaluating their effectiveness.  We can all benefit by reflecting on our predispositions and assumptions brought into our conversations and what filters we use to interpret messages.  Burley-Allen (1995) describes filters such as memories, values, strong beliefs, expectations, attitudes, past experiences, prejudices, assumptions, and feelings.

We should all be conscious of our filters and how they are affecting our ability to listen well.  Partnering with a coach can help you develop a plan to improve your listening abilities and communication effectiveness.  The reward?  Building listening capacity and skill proficiency increases personal success in relationships and leadership influence.


Burley-Allen, M. (1995). Listening: The Forgotten Skill. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons

HE21118Davis_07-medAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach, consultant, and mentor with an extensive background in business development, leadership, and ministry which provides her with the experience, relational skills, and proven processes to move individuals, couples, and leaders to higher levels of personal awareness, effectiveness, and goal achievement.  She coaches in a variety of areas including leadership, life purpose/plans, business, finances, and premarital/marriage.  She can be reached at or 281.793.3741.


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