“Being heard is so close to being loved,
– David W. Augsburger
– Thomas Dubay (1921-2010) Marist priest, author, lecturer.
See also: Professionalism from A to Z, p. 179
In the previous post in this series, I suggested that becoming a better listener is a career advancing skill. For some, that is easier said than done. Today’s topic might make it easier to become a better listener. It will also provide context for all future posts.
Beliefs drive attitudes — attitudes drive behaviors — behaviors form habits.
What beliefs and attitudes cause people to form their listening habits? Maybe a better question would be, “What beliefs and attitudes are at the root of your listening habits?” As an illustration, allow me to offer a few of my own beliefs about listening. First of all, I believe that there is value in understanding someone, without regard to whether or not I like them. I believe that to really understand someone I must listen and observe. I also believe everyone has an interesting story to tell and even if they don’t tell it very well, it’s worthwhile being patient.
“I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything.
So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.”
— Larry King
“So when you are listening to somebody, completely, attentively,
then you are listening not only to the words,
but also to the feeling of what is being conveyed, to the whole of it, not part of it.”
— Jiddu Krishnamurti
So, when I find myself drifting away while another person is talking, I remind myself that I am curious about them because I want to learn. Curiosity leads to listening and questions so I can learn. When put that way, it sounds kind of selfish. Maybe so, but consider this …
“Listening, not imitation, may be the sincerest form of flattery. ”
— Joyce Brothers
I must admit, with some people it is harder to be genuinely curious. In those cases, I imagine I am a reporter trying to “get the scoop.” Sounds silly? Maybe so, but it works for me.
Explore your beliefs. It might help you discover what works for you so you can become a better listener and learner. Here are three questions to ponder …
- What beliefs impact my listening skills?
- What beliefs drive some of my other learning habits?
- What belief will I change today and what is my expected outcome?
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?