Be Quick to Listen & Slow to Speak
Ok, let’s be honest, most of us today are not quick to listen or slow to speak. Many of us listen to what we want to hear and we tailor our response based on the key points that relate to the direction we want to take the conversation in. Today, we will all take IMar Learning Solutions Official Listening Oath, “I (Insert your name) do solemnly swear to listen more attentively, give feedback based on what was actually said (not what I was thinking about while the other person was speaking), and I will work on being quick to listen and slow to speak.” Imagine how your relationship with your husband or wife would grow if you listened more attentively, imagine how society could improve if more citizens listened to hear and not just respond, or how world leaders could end wars by first stopping to listen to understand the other sides point of view.
Listening is a Skill
Many companies offer communications training to help their employees improve their communication skills. But, very few focus on helping their employees improve their listening ability. Students in middle school classrooms across America would see an increase in assessment scores if they first listened before speaking, and husbands across the globe would be able to sleep in their own bed more often if they would listen first before speaking. We have all had to raise our hand to ask the instructor to repeat the directions because we were not listening. Luckily for you and I, there is hope!
Tip #1-Put Down the Technology
“We may be able to hear each other (or read email and texts), but are we listening? We might be sitting across from someone speaking, but at times it’s like the mute button has been pushed. This is because no one is asking: Can you listen to me now?,” writes Laurie Stein Marsh, in her article, “Technology may connect us, but are we really listening?” Think about how often you have seen couples on a date, friends walking through the mall, or families “enjoying” time together and everyone has a device in front of their face. To improve your listening skills you must put down the technology, look the other person in the eye and I challenge you to listen to fully understand what that person is saying. After you are done listening, nodding your head in agreement, not drifting off in the middle of the conversation to “check the time” on your phone, I now challenge you to share a brief summary of your understanding of what was said. I remember a distant time when people actually had conversations and information was shared only among the individuals participating in the conversation. You have to unplug to give each other the respect we all deserve so that our problems and concerns can be heard, and not have to share time with someone else’s Facebook post.
Tip #2-Take Notes
As a presenter, trainer, and lecturer, nothing gives me more satisfaction than when I witness someone taking notes. If you take the time to take notes during a presentation, conversation or meeting it lets the presenter know that you value what he/she is presenting. I am guilty of sitting through training sessions and checking email instead of giving my full attention to the presenter. The presenter may have been a very engaging speaker, but the temptation to pick up my phone and read a text message or check my email is a distraction that it is time for us as a society regain control over. As I mentioned in Tip #1, we have to unplug from the digital distractions to give our brain time to process information. I understand that is easier said than done. We have multiple responsibilities at home and at work that requires an immediate response at times. You will miss out on valuable information if you allow the digital distractions to dominate your time that should be given to old school note taking. For all of you millennials that cannot function without taking notes digitally, James Doubek, in his article for NPR, said that “When people type their notes, they have this tendency to try to take verbatim notes and write down as much of the lecture as they can,”…The students who were taking longhand notes in our studies were forced to be more selective — because you can’t write as fast as you can type. And that extra processing of the material that they were doing benefited them.” Take notes for any conversation, lecture or presentation that is important to you, it will help improve your ability to listen and shows the presenter that you value and care about what they are saying.
Tip #3-Ask Questions
Asking questions is the most powerful tool that you can put into your listening toolbox. When you ask your conversation partner to “share more details, how did the situation make you feel, or what do you plan to do next time?” these are simple examples of questions that let your partner know that you are engaged in the conversation and you are offering the opportunity to work together to dig deeper, to search for new insight, consider different options, and/or reflect and close the conversation. “Asking Questions” might seem like a simple tip, but if you ask the right questions you can gain a treasure chest of new information that can unlock closed doors for your communication partner and help you to better understand the hidden purpose and meaning of the words that are being shared with you by the speaker. So, take up the challenge to listen like a boss, and pay attention to the improvements in your career and personal life!