On election day, 2010, at a business networking event in Cincinnati, a gathering of about 150 people was engaged in discussion framed by three questions posed by host, facilitator, and teacher extraordinaire, Steve Browne.
- “What is networking?”
- “Why do so many people not participate?”
- “How can I become a networking savant?”
As we settled in on the third question, some of the responses were negatively phrased almost as if they were responding to a different question such as, “How do people sabotage their networking efforts?” One suggestion was that people bring an agenda-driven perspective, which they broadcast to everyone within earshot, “It’s all about ME!” How do they do this? By trying way too hard to make a good impression.
“People need to concentrate more on being interested
and less on being interesting.
One is a form of caring, the second is annoying.”
— Clancy Cross
Networking events are not the only place where “me first” lives. It is lurking wherever two or more are gathered. What usually happens when people go into “me first mode” is they engage their tongues and disengage their ears, which makes casualties of comprehension and understanding. Even if it were humanly possible for some exceptional person to listen and comprehend while talking, incessant jabbering doesn’t give anyone else room to contribute. In a conversation among two people, if the objective is to learn something (and it should be most of the time), the rule of thumb is 1/3 speaking, 2/3 listening. Think about how much more we would all learn using this approach.
Too much talking also results in collateral damage to relationships, effectiveness in solving problems, and opportunities for growth. Sounds a little bit like a war zone. If so, that would make disciplined and intentional listening a form of detente.
Here are three questions for reflection …
- What damage have I caused to myself and others by not listening?
- What practices would help me become a better listener?
- What step can I take today to improve my listening skills?