I had a colleague say to me once, “you have 2 ears and one mouth for a reason.” I’ve never forgotten that. Have you ever noticed yourself drifting off when someone’s talking to you or found yourself not being able to hold back b/c you want to say something. I know I have. This is one of the hardest things to change. The first step is to be conscious of it. Let me first make a confession. I’m not very good at this. If you ask my wife, Michelle, what the one thing she would change about me, she would say that she would want me to listen more and better. I guess the first step is admitting your shortcoming, right?
I believe there are three keys to listening more effectively in your professional life and at home:
1 – Single Task
2 – Minimize Distractions
3 – Pay Attention
Here are my thoughts on these three:
1 – Single Task:
There used to be a lot of people that talked about how much you needed to multi-task. We’ve seen that change. The more you multi-task, the less you will really get accomplished. Pick a task and see it through. I guarantee you will be more productive (and you will get that sense of accomplishment with each completion). This goes for listening. Be fully engaged. If someone’s talking to you, really pay attention to what they’re saying. Don’t cut them off. Try to minimize the 500 thoughts that are going through your head. Look them in the eye and give them your full attention. Make them feel like you are in tune to what they’re saying.
2 – Minimize Distractions:
If you’re working and in a meeting put your blackberry or other device away. You can check it every once in a while, but don’t keep it out. If it’s out, you’re going to look at (a lot). And, please, turn off the vibrate notification for emails. I can’t tell you how many meetings I’ve been in where someone’s phone is vibrating every 2 minutes. This is very distracting.
If you’re on a conference call, minimize or shut down your computer as much as possible. Of course, there needs to be some flexibility here. If you’re not an active participant but simply need to be on the call, it’s ok to get some other things done. However, if the call is an important one, do what you can to stay offline and off your computer.
The same goes for regular phone calls. I used to be guilty of this a lot. You’re on the phone with someone and you’re surfing the net or sending emails out. Do you think you’re giving that call
it’s rightful attention? Definitely not.
3 – Pay Attention:
I want you to start to think about listening the next time you’re talking to your colleague, your client, your wife, your children, etc. The more you’re aware of it, the better you will get.
“A good listener tries to understand what the other person is saying. In the end he may disagree sharply, but because he disagrees, he wants to know exactly what it is he is disagreeing with.” – Kenneth A. Wells
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. What works for you? Is an improvement area at work, at home? If you start paying attention, really paying attention, and you’re noticing an improvement, I’d love to hear about it.