Monday, March 8, 2010

Knowing how to listen.

Post 441 - Listening isn't like the mail. What you receive isn't necessarily what got sent. Here's a checklist to monitor your current listening habits:

- Are you waiting impatiently for the other person to shut up so you can talk?
- Are you in such a hurry to offer a solution that you don't wait to hear the problem?
- Are you listening only for what you want to hear?
- Are your prejudices interfering with your listening?
- Do your thoughts wander while the other person is talking?
- Are you memorizing the details but missing the big picture?
- Do you just pretend to listen?
- Do you try to find out if arguments reflect a real difference of opinion or just how the issue is worded?

Plutarch advised, "Know how to listen, and you will profit even from those who talk badly." If you want to improve, here are the ten commandments for good listening:

1. Stop talking.
You can't listen if you're talking. Hidden in the word listen is the word silence.

2. Put the talker at ease.
Help the talker feel free to talk by creating a permissive environment.

3. Show that you want to listen.
Look and act interested. Don't continue reading your mail. And listen to understand rather than to oppose. Check regularly for understanding.

4. Remove distractions.
Don't doodle, tap your pen or shuffle papers. Will it be quieter if you shut the door?

5. Empathize.
Try to put yourself in the speaker's place so you can see their point of view. Don't just hear what's being said. Watch nonverbal cues that could indicate what isn't being said. Often what isn't being said is as important as what is.

6. Be patient.
Allow plenty of time. Don't interrupt. Don't start to move towards the door or begin to walk away.

7. Hold your temper.
An angry person usually gets the wrong meaning from what's being said. Remember Mark Twain’s advice: "When angry, count to ten. When very angry, swear!"

8. Go easy on argument and criticism.
If you put the speaker on the defensive, they may clam up or get angry. Don't argue, because when you do, even if you win, you lose.

9. Ask questions.
This encourages the talker to continue and shows that you're listening.

10. One more time, stop talking.
This is the first and last commandment because all the other commandments depend on it. Nature gave us two ears and only one tongue, which should remind us to listen twice as much as we talk nearly every time.

Here’s a funny story from John who was the shoe-shine man at Warner Brothers. He said he thinks that out everyone he’s met over the past 50 years, Charlton Heston was the nicest. And he said that although everyone told Charlton to be meaner and less of a gentleman, Charlton just kept on being nice. John said that, in that context, “Real men don’t listen.”

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