Let me just say it: we stink as listeners. We all do. For those still talking and not paying attention in the back, let me repeat, “we stink as listeners.”
Let me explain: I’ve noticed lately that listening skills are not what they used to be, mine, yours, and every one else. For example, I have a hearing loss which I’ve written about in the past, but I’m not talking about “situational hearing,” but true listening.
Instead, I’ve noticed that in meetings many people routinely fight over each other to talk. I’ve noticed too that I’ve gotten caught in the game too. My excuse is simple enough, with the onslaught of remote working and online meetings, it’s been a challenge to be heard and even get a word in edgewise, but it still doesn’t make it right.
So, I tried a little experiment. I went to a week of meetings and phone conversations with the whole intent of listening. Oh, I talked, but my goal was to listen more than I talked. Here’s what I learned:
–The loudest voices are just that the loudest, but that doesn’t make them right. Sometimes the soft, quietest voice carries the most power. Think I’m crazy. Watch a father straining to hear his daughter or son say “dada” and you’ll agree with me.
–Focus on listening and not what to say next or where to take the conversation.
–Embrace the pauses. For some reason, we often think pauses are a bad thing. That couldn’t be further from the truth. A pause allows for you breathe, to collect your thoughts, to take the conversation in different direction.
–When listening, nod, smile, and encourage others to continue. I found all of these helped me to stay in the moment and listen rather than mentally checking out and coming up with the weekly grocery store list.
Think I’m crazy, try any one of these stepss on your next Zoom, Microsoft Meetings, WebEx or Google Meeting call, and just listen, don’t say a word, just listen to the conversation. See what happens. You just might hear something you never would have heard. You may even hear the proverbial pin drop!
A few more thoughts over the years on the power of listening or not listening: