Put a Sock In It and Listen.

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What you’re missing if you’re not listening.

My anchor for listening dates back to editing audio in radio. Alone in an edit bay, I not only listened to the content of what people said, but how they said it. Are they afraid, angry, sarcastic, overjoyed, or just flat lining it?  The emotions spoke more to me than the words. I felt empathy for these people, and I felt like I truly understood them.

That sounds nice, but in real life, I’m not a good listener.  But I’d like to think I’m a recovering terrible listener.  Self awareness is the first step, right?  Before you pat yourself on the back and move on to a much sexier blog post about analytics and marketing automation, see if you agree with any of these statements.

  • I usually start meetings with a monologue about my ideas.
  • When people ask me what somebody said in a meeting, I have no idea what they’re talking about.
  • While other people talk, I see my favorite video game in my head.
  • What other people have to say is boring.
  • And, of course, I’m just plain smarter than everyone else.

Yeah, I thought so. You need help, pal. Start by remembering a moment in your life that you absolutely  know you were listening. A doctor giving you news about a loved one. What the cop muttered when he handed you a ticket for doing 75 m.p.h. in a school zone.

Imagine if you could have that experience in a meeting, or a quick chat in your office. If you truly listen,  the chances that the other person will listen to you and cooperate zoom up exponentially. I’m sure you’re already stuffed with articles about active listening, neurolinguistic programming, body language, and facial tics that give away liars. I would guess that people who are naturally good listeners don’t need those tools.

This brings me to my pet peeve. Fake listening. The people who’ve taken one too many seminars, but have never actually done it. They’re easy to spot, too, by their bobbling encouraging heads, and active listening murmurs,  uhmms, and making just a little too much eye contact.  “Yes, we’re listening to you,  but please finish babbling so we can fire up our PowerPoint deck, so we can finally tell you how special we are.”

To be honest, I can be a faker, too. And some situations demand it, e.g. when you’re on the dias with a keynote speaker who is droning on oblivious to the glazed eyes of his audience.

Information is cheap. We don’t need to talk about your LinkedIn profile. I read it. Tell me something meaningful, and I’ll do my best to listen.

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