Lessons Learnt 2: Listening

Basically, the ability to communicate

There are very few people I like to listen to. True raconteurs are a rare thing. Some of the greatest stories have been the dullest, the lady who got on a fast bus, the skier who missed the pole – but I was enraptured.

But enough about the orators this is about listening when you don’t want to, when you’re busy, don’t want an answer, don’t want the truth or just waiting to say your piece and get on with the next seemingly important thing of the day, which, by the way is generally not important.  Unless you are rushing to a hospital, stopping a fire or feeding the starving.

The most important thing at any point is now.

We are very good at hearing, I’ll mmm and nod and even try to play back what they said, but this is not listening this is hearing what you do and don’t want to validate you.

So how do you really listen:

  1. Turn off everything else (phones, computers, a doorbell, your thought process)
  2. Step out and see the bigger context – the why they are saying what they are saying
  3. Don’t try and speak/ interrupt/push your agenda
  4. Focus on that single conversation

This, if nothing else, makes the person feel special. It was all about them – you didn’t push any agenda or opinion – you listened. Don’t get me wrong there is a time to give an opinion but not without the first effort of listening.

Listening is a lot of effort, it’s hard. It’s time-consuming, it will pin prick you with a thousand incorrect, stupid, insulting, opinionated statements – that (with our basic drivers behind us) will push us to respond to – don’t.

It is one of the hardest things I’ve had to learn. Give me a day when I am tired, stressed, busy and then a colleague comes in to talk or gives the worst presentation I have ever seen – the temptation is to shut down and move on. That is a guarantee for failure. When in those situations I’ve dug deep and listened, I’ve had, least of all, the time to formulate a response that is relevant, meaningful, well-timed and enables change.

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