One of the most important communication skill that we can all improve on is listening. Ever want to just shout – “Hey – shut up and listen to me!”? Most of us have, and, I hate to break it to you, someone has probably wanted to shout that at you as well.
Which of the following have you ever thought about (be honest) while someone is talking to you?
• Get to the point.
• I already know the punch line. I’m way ahead.
• This is boring, I’m checking out.
• I wonder what I should have for dinner.
• How should I respond?
• How can I defend my position?
If you thought of something even close to any of the above when you should be listening, you need to brush up on your active listening skills and make a choice to really listen and understand what is being said.
One of the most basic and important listening tip I can give you is this:
Know when to shut up and when to listen
Most of us like to respond and be fully engaged in a conversation. But what really happens more often than not is that we end up talking too much and listening too little. A technique that can help you in this area is to simply learn when to listen and when to shut up. It’s a skill I like to call “shut up and listen.”
Some time ago, I worked for a state policy board and, in a moment of frustration, I argued with a board member during a public board meeting. I did this because I thought I was right and she was wrong. I did it because I thought I had something to say. I did it because I wanted to defend my position. And, yes, I did it for all the wrong reasons.
The first rule to being good board staff support is to not challenge or, heaven forbid, argue with board members, especially in a public meeting. Sure, I knew that. But, at the first chance I had, I interrupted to make sure I got my point across.
Afterward my boss pulled me aside and, in private, simply noted that if I would have listened and let the member finish, I would have learned that she was making the same point I wanted to make.
Ever been there?
Think about it, the next time you are in a conversation with someone – anyone – practice listening first and, if necessary, talk second. Let me know how that works out for you!
Betty Lochner is the Owner of Cornerstone Coaching & Training. She specializes in personal and organizational transformation and is the author of Dancing with Strangers: Communication skills for transforming your life at work and at home.
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