Have you ever been in a meeting where everyone is talking over one another so their points could be shared? How often do we listen to truly understand the other’s point of view? When we learn to listen and understand the perspectives of others, we improve interpersonal relationships and achieve better results (often because we have better information on which to act).
Listening is one of the most important skills in life. Listening costs nothing. It allows you to understand the person sitting across from you, connect with them and reach common ground. Listening is the golden key to relationships. You spend years learning how to read and write, and years learning how to speak. But what about listening? What training have we had that enables us to listen so we deeply understand another human being? Probably none, right?
Most people try to be understood; they want to get their point across. In doing so, they may ignore the other person completely. Some pretend they’re listening, selectively hearing only certain parts of the conversation, or hearing only the words being said and missing the meaning entirely. Why does this happen? Because most people are preparing a reply while they’re “listening”. We filter everything we hear through our life experiences as a frame of reference. We check what we hear against our autobiography and see how it measures up. Consequently, we prematurely decide what the other person means before they finish communicating.
I practice, and at times I struggle and fail. I often catch myself doing two things at once because of all the things on my plate. When I sit with a person I try to just take notes and save my questions until they’re done expressing their thoughts. I try to look at the scenario from their shoes. I find when I focus and let them say everything they want, I get a better understanding of the situation.
Tom Krejci is a great listener. When Tom was at Famous, he would push everything else away and give me his undivided attention no matter what we were talking about. Mike Scott is also a good listener. I had the pleasure of making a joint sales call with Mike to meet a very large customer. Mike had a piece of paper and a pen. His phone was in his pocket. Mike would ask a question and listen, looking right at the customer. He wrote an occasional note, but never interrupted. When the customer had concluded their thought, he would ask if there was anything else. Only after that did he ask a question or two, and the process would start all over again. At the end of the 20-minute conversation Mike summarized what was discussed, asked if he captured everything and asked the customer if they had anything else to add.
Listening isn’t just what happens when someone else is speaking. It’s a skill that we all can get better at to become better leaders, associates, friends, and human beings.
“Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk.” — Doug Larson
Director – HVAC Products | Famous Enterprises