Be the Best You: Listening, an Overlooked Skill!
One of the easiest things in the word is talking and forming thoughts. All too often do we focus on our thoughts. We have become a world of thinking of what to say while others are talking and less listening to what the person is actually saying. Possibly due to technology, but nonetheless listening is an amazing tool to show you are engaged in conversation. If someone senses you are not listening to them, discussions break down pretty quick. If you do not listen to what people are saying you miss a lot. Going back to my point about preparing for a debate, you want to know everything about your opponent in a debate. Just like you want to know all about what people on your team or in your family are thinking. It helps you understand and formulate solutions and things that will work for everyone. It also gives you a look into their mind. They show you how they think. That is strong stuff.
Being able to understand how people think, how they process things, how they perceive things is an asset to you. Mostly people will freely talk to you about things. Talk to them and listen. Even if someone is talking to you about something you know about. Do not stop listening. I have found many times I learn new things or ways about the same subject just by listening to someone else’s thoughts on it. This also goes into relationships which we will discuss more later. The day you look at yourself as an expert is the day you begin to fail in life. Once you cross the threshold of supposing you are an expert, people notice it. Perception is part of the game, don’t get comfortable. Keep learning and putting knowledge in your brain. Always demonstrate desire.
When in a team setting if you are discussing a task at hand and someone asks the table how they should attack said task. You will get different answers. Maybe some are simple and some are complicated. But I guarantee that it is a mix of those answers that gets you to the finish line. If you listen to others, they most likely will listen to you. If you give someone the time of day with them, they will give you the time of day with you when you need them. Listen to people.
As Ernest Hemingway said “I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.”. Most people never listen. That is a strong thing to say, but it is pretty true. Pay attention to people when you talk, are they asking questions about what you are speaking about, or looking like they are waiting for the crosswalk signal to say “WALK”? Worse yet are they interrupting you time and time again, cutting off your sentences? That is a hard thing to deal with. Do your best to not interrupt people. Yea, it happens from time to time. But do not make it a habit. Ask some questions when people talk and listen to them.
I have had the pleasure in the past of working with an executive who listened. He was well known for measured thought. He would go through a whole meeting and really not say much. He would listen. Then at the end of the meeting he would give his dissertation. It encompassed all of what people were saying and laid out the direction going forward. It was amazing really. Just because someone is quiet in meetings, doesn’t mean they are not listening. Just because someone is talking for 60% of the meeting doesn’t mean they are listening. Each person is different, but listening is the key to being a good team member, spouse, friend, etc.
Listening means absorbing what is being said. In today’s world things are measured in nanoseconds. But to be a good listener you must soak up the thoughts coming out of other people’s mouths. Think about what is being said and formulate a thought that is worthy of everyone’s time. Saying things just to seem important or just to fill up the void is useless. If it is not adding to the conversation it is subtracting. Bring substance. If you put effort into improving your listening, you will ultimately improve other skills in the process. Listening is a strong skill, deploy it and win, win, win!