Almost universally, the leaders I have the good fortune to coach find that one of the skills they most need to work on is listening… really listening. That need has been ever-present, but in an age when we’re attempting to multi-task, to compress more activity into each day, and babbling more (because we can), the time and energy spent listening is decidedly on the wane. Lest there be any doubt, the people around us have noticed. Indeed, lack of listening has been a top tier item of concern on every engagement survey I’ve seen in the last three years.
Because of the aforementioned activity compression, when interacting with others, we do basically two things: We talk, and then while the other person is saying whatever is on their mind, we formulate our reply, while sorta hearing them in the background. In short, rather than listening, we’ve been “waiting to talk.” And because very few of us have decent acting skills, our feigned listening (I so wanted to use the work f_ke but couldn’t bring myself to it) is noticed, every time. Three suggestions that you may find useful:
- Tolerate “Dead-Air” – Rather than allowing your lips to fly open the very nanosecond the other person stops talking, pause for a few seconds and ponder what they just said… Trust me, just as you just encountered an inch of horizontal white space on this page, it won’t ruin anything if you both endure a few seconds of silence.
- Notice Their Eye Color – Don’t ask me why this works, but it seems that the very act of noticing something about the other person seems to disrupt our urge to respond a bit, a wee bit.
- Take Notes – That’s right, go old school and physically make notes of what the other person is saying as they are saying it. Not only will you understand and remember it better, your note-taking is a measure of respect that won’t soon be lost on the other person.
Lastly, this isn’t a suggestion, but a command, and you know what’s coming: Please put the damned device away, where it will distract no one. Siri will not get angry if you put her in your pocket or purse for a while.