Case: Listening at Different Levels

Case: Listening at Different Levels

What message is the individual giving through his or her words and actions?

Joe is giving the message of a concerned or friendly person. He goes to the loading dock, greets Anton, and even enquires about how he is fairing. Tamiko is giving the message that she is shy, nervous, and fearful through her actions. Through her words, one can get the message that she is unsure of her actions. Tamiko is yet to make a firm decision on whether to report Anton. Sally is giving the message that she us upset and gravely concerned about the matter on hand. This can be deduced from her actions whereby she enters Joe’s office and does not even wait to exchange the usual pleasantries with Joe. Fred is giving the message that is angry through his words and actions. Fred uses abusive language and ticks points using his fingers.

  What might Joe do or say to show that he is hearing content (Level II)?

There are various things that Joe can do or say to show that he is hearing the content. Content refers to the plain facts, data and information that an individual sends to another during the communication process. Conflicts and misunderstandings are likely to arise when the receiver of the message fail to hear the message. Joe can show that he heard and understood the content through two means, which include verbal and nonverbal or behavioral feedback. Feedback is an important component of the communication process. It enables the sender of the message to know whether the recipient has understood all components of the message or instructions.

Behavioral feedbacks relate to the manner in which an individual reacts. Joe might show that he is hearing the content by making gestures such as nodding the head in agreement. For instance when talking to Tamiko, he can slowly nod his head to show that he is listening. This would give a signal to the sender of the message that he understands the content. Joe should make eye contact with the speaker to show that he is actively listening (“Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)”, 2005). Looking sideways could be a strong indicator that Joe is distracted or bored and thus not hearing the content. Another behavioral feedback is body posture. Joe should face the speaker and slightly lean towards the speaker. This shows that he is hearing the content and attentive at the same time.

Verbal feedback, on the other hand, is a strong indicator that the recipient understands the content. One of the verbal feedbacks that Joe can give is to show that he is hearing the content is paraphrase. This involves restating the words of the speaker while making a clarification (Griffith & Goodwin, 2013). For instance, he can respond to Tamiko, “So you say that Anton has been using abusive language around you”. The paraphrase is a strong indicator that the recipient clearly understood the content. It also allows the speaker to make clarifications if there are unclear issues. Another thing that Joe might do is to ask questions (“FEMA”, 2005). Asking questions indicates that one is actually hearing what is being said, but needs clarification on some issues.

What might Joe do or say to show that he is hearing feelings (Level III)?

Feelings are an important aspect in the communication process. Feelings are personal in nature in that others cannot feel what one is feeling. Others can know about one’s feeling when an individual expresses feelings through behavior or when one tells others about his/her feelings. Joe can do some things to show that he is hearing feelings. One of the things Joe can do is to provide an empathic response. An empathic response is a response that shows empathy, or reflects that one is aware of other people’s feelings (Griffith & Goodwin, 2013). For instance, Joe might say to Sally, “I understand your concerns about Anton’s recent behavior.” Empathic responses indicate that the listener (Joe) not only hears the words, but also hears the speaker’s thoughts, feelings, and beliefs (“FEMA”, 2005). Emphatic listening requires hard work and high concentration levels on the speaker’s words and behavioral expressions.

What more can Joe do to encourage the other party to share more so that he can truly understand what the party is truly thinking and feeling?

Joe can do various things to encourage the other party to share more, and in the process understand the feelings of the other party. Joe can avoid any form of distracting behaviors such as grimacing, playing with a pen, and others especially while talking to Tamiko who appears shy. This would ensure that the other party feels encouraged in continuing the talk. Another thing that Joe can do is maintain a positive attitude throughout the conversation. Joe should show sustained interest in the conversation in order to encourage the other party to talk more and express their true feelings (In Martin & In DiMatteo, 2014). Another thing is that Joe should seek clarification when the speaker says things that are not clear. For instance, Joe should seek more clarification from Fred about what is happening and why he is not taking any action. This can be a great way of letting the speaker know that he is actively listening.

Case Study

Define the problem

Anton seems to be complaining bitterly about the misfortunes in his life. His car seems to have periodic mechanical failures. On the other hand, his phone service provider seems to have increased his rates, which is contributing to his ranting about the life’s misfortunes. Tamiko makes a report to Joe that Anton said something about her. She has already shared the details with her friend Sally who advised that she talk to Joe about it. Tamiko seems nervous and anxious about the whole scenario. Sally seems angry as she enters Joe’s office. Sally claims that Anton has been saying bad things about his staff while Fred just lets it go by. Sally calls on Joe to take action against Anton. When Joe runs onto Fred, he appears angry and defensive. He says that the claims made by Sally and Tamiko are exaggerated; he argues that Tamiko and Sally have made a scene over a little joke. He seems to downplay the whole situation. The type of case is a problem case that requires one for identify a problem and develop possible solutions to the problems.

List any outside concepts that can be applied

Various outside concepts can be applied to this case. The first concept is critical theory. Conflict theory holds that the society is in a state of constant conflicts owing to competition among members due to the limited resources. Further, the theory asserts that social order can only be maintained through domination and yielding more power. The other concept that may apply in this case is post-positive theory which holds that order is the norm in any organization. As such, conflicts and misunderstandings are an unacceptable in the organization. A framework that Joe can apply in resolving the growing problem is joint problem solving. Joe should engage negotiation with all parties involved in order to solve the conflict and misunderstandings among workers.

Relevant qualitative data

Anton is a self-centered person. He is more concerned about the problems in his life. He is fondly nicknamed “Mr. Opportunity” probably due to taking advantage of situations. Anton is full of complaining about the problems in his life. Tamiko is a shy person. She is also nervous and fearful. This could the reason why Anton bullies her. Tamiko is unable to make a decision whether to report Anton to Joe saying that, “I’m not sure I should”. Tamiko is fearful since she does not want to get “anyone in trouble”. As such, she would rather tolerate Anton’s behavior. Sally is proactive. She has urged Tamiko to report Anton’s behavior to Joe. Tamiko seems reluctant to make a report. Sally takes action by going into Joe’s office to discuss the matter. Sally is insistent since she has refused to let the matter rest. She is determined that Joe will take the right action against Anton. Thus, even after convincing Tamiko to see Joe, she still goes to report the issue personally. Fred is defensive. He defends Anton’s behavior by downplaying his actions. He openly shows anger by the manner in which he talks.

Relevant quantitative data

Anton is a complainer and seems bitter. When Joe goes to the loading dock, Anton complains about two three things. He says his car is giving him problems, complains about incurring higher charges on his cell phone, and makes a comment that no one cares about his troubles. It is important to consider the number of complaints brought against Anton. So far, Tamiko and Sally have made official complaints concerning Anton’s behavior. Tamiko says that Anton has made some comments about her. Sally also complains that Anton has been saying many bad things but Fred does not seem to care. This indicates that Anton makes the comments frequently and thus the need to look into the issue.

Results of my analysis

The results of my analysis indicate that Anton has been saying bad things that are hurtful to other employees. Qualitative evidence indicates that Anton is a self-centered person, and thus likely to be concerned over his welfare only, while disregarding the feelings and welfare of other employees. It is thus possible that Anton could hurt the feelings of others without minding. Quantitative data indicates that there is more than one report associating Anton with bad utterances that could hurt the feelings of other employees. This is an indication that Anton has made bad comments about others. Fred appears defensive claiming that Anton is minding his own business. This may not be true since it appears that Anton made some bad comments to Tamiko, who first reported the matter to Sally. It seems that it is not the first time that Anton has said bad things concerning others.

Alternative actions

  • Mediation: involves the use of a third party to settle the conflict. The arbitrator could be anyone from Joe to any other person.
  • Integrative bargaining: both parties try to come up with a creative solution to the problem.
  • Compromise: this is a win-win situation that can be reached when either party agrees to give a little or take a little of the compromise in the bargaining situation.
  • Arbitration: this involves the use of a trained third party to settle the conflict, for instance, a lawyer. The matter is settled outside the court.

Preferred action plan

The preferred action plan is mediation. This involves the use of a third party to facilitate the negotiation. The third party does not impose any solution, but guides the parties in reaching a solution to the identified problem(s). The short-term goal of the mediation process is to ensure that the current conflicts do not escalate to unmanageable levels. The medium term goal is to ensure that the employees’ performance is not affected by the ongoing conflicts. The long-term goal is to bring the conflicts to an end and foster a positive work environment.


Griffith, D., & Goodwin, C. (2013). Conflict survival toolkit: Tools for resolving conflict at work             (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Pearson. (ISBN-13: 9780132741057)

In Martin, L. R., & In DiMatteo, M. R. (2014). The Oxford handbook of health communication,   behavior change, and treatment adherence. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). (2005). Effective communication:           Independent study. Retrieved from