You're Not Listening


The habit of not listening is rampant and often goes undetected. It doesn’t take much work to pretend we’re listening, even give lip service by saying things like, “Oh really, that’s interesting.”

Not listening is a silent, invisible activity; all you have to do is keep your mouth closed, smile, maintain eye contact, nod at the right moments, and mutter agreements. Many times you can get away with it…maybe.

There are a lot of things to do instead of listening to what the other person is explaining.

  1. You can prepare your response
  2. You can make a list of why he’s wrong
  3. You can note the number of grammar errors
  4. You can wonder why he’s dressed like that
  5. You can go over your list of things you need to do after he wraps up
  6. You can decide what you’re going to have for lunch and with whom

The list goes on. And because you’re smart, you know exactly what not to do to tip him off you’re not really listening. Just don’t let it be known you’re impatient, you’re not really interested, and that you would rather be doing something else.

Here’s a clue, if you’re really that clueless (and I know you’re not!)… Listening is far from a silent, passive activity. In fact, it’s hard work.

So instead of not listening and letting yourself get bored, here’s what you could be doing.

  • Listen intensely for nuggets of wisdom
  • Ask a good question that shows your respect and desire to find out more
  • Ask yourself if disagreeing with the person is really worth it before you speak
  • Look for the opportunity to build a relationship instead of shooting down an idea

This is probably harder to do at home than at work, but everyone’s got their no-listening zones.

Want to try something out, just for fun? If you’re spending extra time at home this week because of holiday time with family, try listening intensely to your least favorite relative. Go on, ask questions, invite them to “tell me more!” You might be surprised what that brings. I’m just saying, try it out…

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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