Key Point: Listening is more than just “hearing,” and a skill we’re in danger of losing in this world of digital distraction and big data overload. Stop: What do you hear right now?
By asking you what you are hearing, it causes your brain to take control of the sensory experience, and it makes you listen rather than just hear. According to scientists, that’s what happens when an event jumps out of the background enough to be perceived consciously rather than just being part of our auditory surroundings. The difference between the sense of hearing and the skill of listening is ATTENTION. How do we sharpen our attention skills so we don’t have to wait for the “big bang” noise to really listen?
When you actually pay attention to something you’re listening to, according to Seth Horowitz, an auditory neuroscientist at Brown University and the author of The Universal Sense: How Hearing Shapes the Mind…
“A separate ‘top-down’ pathway comes into play. Here, the signals are conveyed through a dorsal pathway in your cortex, part of the brain that does more computation, which lets you actively focus on what you’re hearing and tune out sights and sounds that aren’t as immediately important.”
Unless our hearing is impaired, it happens naturally and easily. But listening and attention are more challenging. Especially with all the additional distractions and work we put our brain through with all the BIG NOISE around us. But listening tunes our brain to the patterns of our environment faster than any other sense, and paying attention to the non-visual parts of our world feeds into everything that helps us grow our intellectual, emotional and physical capabilities. Really paying attention and listening is a huge part of the RESPECT value I talk about. In my case, when I’m in a stuck or deteriorating relationship, it is often related to me not listening as well as I might. I’m just not in the moment, present, and paying attention! The reverse is often also true; I connect with others much more and on a deeper level when I listen.
- Horowitz suggests that we can train our skills doing things like listening to different music, carefully capturing emotions attached to the harmonics in the voice of people we work with and significant others. Like everything else worth developing: Practice, practice, practice!
- Please just put the darn smartphone down, look the other person in the eye, and listen. Pay attention. If you still have the smartphone or iPad in your hands, you are likely more interested in waiting for the person to stop talking than really listening.
- Think about being at a cocktail party, when someone glazes over your shoulder for somebody “more interesting.” That’s kinda what it feels like when we aren’t paying attention and not listening.
- Remember that the best things to say during conversation will naturally come out of really listening, not loading your mouth up and waiting for the other person to stop talking.
Attention in The Triangle,
Key Point: One in four leaders get feedback in their 360 reviews that they could be better listeners. I have noticed over and over again that many people come to meetings and never take notes (electronically or hard copy). I often wonder and am amazed because they must have exceptional memories. How are they so skilled at absorbing the essence of a presentation/conversation? As an example, it used to drive me bananas when sales people showed up to sales development programs without having anything to take notes. How could they possibly capture the key learning’s without writing them down and reflecting upon them? What tools and techniques do you use to improve your listening skills? See below:
The following is from the above HBR “better listeners” blog:
“I saw how Larry Bossidy, former CEO of Honeywell, do the following: Sitting down with a business unit leader presenting him with information about a $300 million dollar technical investment opportunity, Bossidy divided a sheet of paper about three-quarters across. On the larger left side of the paper, he scribbled detailed notes; on the smaller right side, he occasionally jotted down two or three words, capturing what he perceived to be the key insights and issues being brought to his attention. It was a simple technique that disciplined him to listen intently for the important content and focus follow-up questions on points that really mattered. Whether or not this is your method, you should train yourself to sift for the nuggets in a conversation. Then let the other person know that they were understood by probing, clarifying, or further shaping those thoughts. The benefits of this go beyond ensuring that you heard it right: First, the person on the other end of the conversation will be gratified that you are truly grasping the essence of their thoughts and ideas; second, this gratification will motivate and energize them to create more thoughts and solutions. Listening opens the door to truly connecting and is the gateway to building relationships and capability.”
- Have a technique that sifts for listening nuggets! Write them down. Review the nuggets with the people who you are in discussion with. Connect with the other(s) by demonstrating understanding.
- Practice improving listening skills everyday. Develop listening techniques that work for you. This practice is a life and relationship enhancer.
- Really listening is like mining for gold. It takes continual sifting to find the nuggets. And like gold, solid listening increases the richness in relationships.
Sifting for gold in The Triangle,
The children’s book “Go the F**k to Sleep” has gone viral. So I thought I’d piggy back on the title to see if I might get your attention. Receiving versus transmitting is so important. However we are often so driven to communicate our view, we can get lost talking instead of listening. The following is a replay of a Huffington Post blog by Marty Zwilling with practical wisdom:
“Check to see if you are practicing the key disciplines of listening, as outlined by Brian Tracy in No Excuses: the Power of Self-Discipline:
- Listen attentively. Listen as though the other person is about to reveal a great secret or the winning lottery number and you will hear it only once. Since you always pay attention to what you most value, when you pay close attention to another person, you tell that person that they are of great value to you. You will be remembered.
- Pause before replying. When you pause, you avoid the risk of interrupting the other person if they are reformulating their thoughts. It also enables you to hear not only what was said, but what was not said. Then you can respond with greater awareness and sensitivity.
- Ask for clarification. Never assume that you automatically know what the other person is thinking or feeling. It is when you ask questions and seek clarity that you demonstrate that you really care about what he or she is saying, and that you are genuinely interested in understanding how he or she thinks and feels.
- Feed it back. The acid test of listening is to see if you can paraphrase what you heard in your own words. It is only when you can repeat back what the other person has just said, in your own words, that you prove you are really listening, and understood the message. For all feedback, be sure to mirror the other person’s pace and communication style.
Even good communicators average only about half their time listening. Yet experts assert that most people listen with only about 25 percent of their attention, hear about 25 percent of what is said, and after two months, remember only half of that. That’s not effective communication.
There are also things you can do to encourage others to listen to you, when you do speak, to improve the overall communication:
- Lower voice, no emotion. This causes the other party to listen more carefully, and facilitates a more pleasant and more effective conversation.
- Adapt to listener interests. Use analogies and terminology that are easy for the other person to relate to, and they will respond with attention and higher comprehension.
- Choose the right environment. Wait for the right opportunity, when you can be easily heard and understood, and the listener is in the right mood.
- Address people by name. This gets their attention and focus. Sometimes it helps to bring others into the conversation to support your input.”
This information is likely not news to you but it may be a good reminder. Here is what might help turning better listening into a habit. If you could work on just two things of the above, try doing the following:
Character Move :
- Before you comment with your view, make it a habit to ask a genuine clarification question or paraphrase your understanding. You will become a master communicator if you make this a sincere part of your dialogue.
- Be present. Let the person(s) know that you are there to listen and understand. Do not wander off or let your electronic gadgets distract you. People will respect that you have given yourself to them. This is important whether you are talking to people above or below you in rank.
Listen in the Triangle,
“One of the most heroic examples of community spirit was 24-year-old Miki Endo, who used the loudspeaker system in Minamisanriku, [Japan] a fishing port close to the focus of the 9.0 earthquake, to urge residents to do what they could to escape the incoming tsunami. She drowned at her post. Television footage shows the rising sea approaching, with her haunting voice echoing over the waves. More than 1,000 of the town’s 18,000 residents died.”
This is a quote from a recent article in the Economist about leadership and response during and after the horrendous earthquake and Tsunami in Japan.
Thankfully, daily work life for most of us has little to do with putting our lives at risk. Hopefully none of us will be called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice and demonstrate the incredible heroism of Miki Endo. However, I sometimes feel that people in companies are standing at their posts with loud speakers and warning of impending dangers. They call out repeatedly. Are we listening? How do they feel when we don’t? What are the consequences?
I recently observed this “drowning at your post” syndrome in a customer service situation. Customers were calling in and well-intended caring people at the front desk were doing everything to be helpful. But, the customer response system was broken and the plea for help from the first responders went nowhere. Customers felt abandoned and so did the people on the front lines. I believe if you “put your antenna up” and really listen, there is likely someone with a loudspeaker asking for help or announcing a coming storm around you at work right now. What are they saying? Do they feel that anybody is listening? Do they metaphorically feel like they’re drowning at their posts?
- Really listen and ask yourself, “Who around me (maybe it’s me) is sending out warning signals or calls for help? What are they really saying?”
- Ask yourself what you can do to help. Do not avoid it and assume it’s just someone “crying wolf” or say it’s “not my job” to respond.
- Do not let people “drown at their posts.” Often just acknowledging that you are listening, and starting a conversation, is enough to get the action wheels rolling.
- Remember that to keep the early warning system working well, we need to be responsive to each other at work. It is our workplace. It is our village.
- Do not wait for people at the top to get it and respond. They’re often too late, slow, or deaf.
Listening at you Post in the Triangle,