What you think isn’t that important
They met, like they almost always did, for lunch. They were exited to try a new barbeque place in town. It was small but clean and the line went from the counter to the door. It was intriguing. She wanted to chat about a couple things so after getting situated on a couple stools that faced the side-walk they started talking.
It didn’t go that well because he didn’t listen well.
He thought of himself as a great listener.
Self-perceptions seldom align with the way others perceive us. For example, you may think of yourself as a great listener. That doesn’t mean others think the same. Worse yet, it doesn’t mean you actually are a great listener.
What you think about your skills means less than what others think of them. Thinking you can, is not enough. If others don’t think you listen well, you don’t.
A simple evaluation
Think about yesterday’s conversations. Mentally compare the amount of time you spent with your mouth opened as opposed to shut. (I’m only looking for indicators.)
Are you a talker or a listener? Remember, your greatest tool of influence is your ears not your mouth.
How about this, rather than mentally comparing your talk-time to your listen-time, I dare you to actually keep track of the amount of time you talk compared to the amount of time you listen.
What went wrong
Why didn’t she feel listened to?
His assumptions got in the way. She said one thing and he assumed many things. The result, she felt trapped by his assumptions.
Rather than state assumptions, turn them into clarifying questions. Say, “I want to make sure I understand. Are you saying…”
What blocks listening?
What makes you feel listened to?
I’ve posted a free discount code on yesterday’s blog. It’s for some terrific online training. Check it out. 8 Reasons You’re Stuck
Dan, nice subject. It is so important to know how to listen and to be good listener. This subject of today is linked to an other anterior subject great from Leadership Freak- “Listen what isn’t said”.
What blocks listening?
My opinion is impatience can block listening as well as lack of interest and respect to others opinion or subjects. Once as we know the purpose of a meeting we must be focus to listen well and judge proper, ask good questions and deliver good and clear messages.
What makes you feel listened to?
When I receive feedback I am listen. When people are looking in the eye they listen to me. When people ask me questions to they listen first.
Are you a talker or a listener?
I learn to be a strategic talker or listener. Both are important and making a balance in using I think is the best solution in communication.
all the best,
Thanks for remembering a post I did back in early Sept. “Listening to what isn’t said.” http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/2010/09/04/hearing-what-isn%E2%80%99t-said/
You nailed some reasons we don’t listen well. Thanks for adding to the conversation.
Love the expression “strategic talker or listener.
Thanks for the reminder. I have personal meetings almost daily and some days I fail to listen well. I never thought if an employee recognized I was not. This can make us seem insincere, this breaks my values of being a caring leader. Never thought it might get down to how I listen. Thanks!
I’m always glad to see you in the comment list. Thanks for stopping in.
It’s encouraging when leaders are still learners. 🙂
When I was a teenager, I was in the throes of an emotional crisis. The person I had been dating had broken off the relationship in an extremely dramatic and rather public manner. I said to my mom, “he hates me.” She said, “it doesn’t matter.” From the vantage point of almost 30 years later (considering that I have restored a friendship with the individual and my mom is still much loved), I understand why a mom seeing a daughter in a less-than-desirable relationship is so relieved that she would blurt out her belief – it doesn’t matter because this is better for all involved. But for that one moment in time, what I really needed was for her to hear the despair in my voice, hug me, and reflect back some statement/emotion that signfied she understood. In this case (and in many cases), what blocked listening was her view of the world and the outcomes she wanted.
I also agree that we may feel like we are phenomenal listeners but may be doing things that we are unaware of that undermine the perception of the listenee. When we had management training here at Healthy Kids several months ago, we paired up in feedback duos. My partner mentioned that every time I was thinking of what to say, I broke eye contact by looking off into the distance. Having a husband and son who do not make consistent eye contact, I had always smugly prided myself on being great at that component of listening. Having that outside viewpoint was critical to pinpointing that issue.
KaPow! What a great story that drives home the power of listening. YOu helped me learn about the power of listening all over again!
Best regards to you,
Paula regularly adds value to the Leadership Freak community. Her bio and contact info: http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/paula-kiger
What blocks listening? There is the standard list including internal noise, external noise, fatigue, stress/emotion/, selfishness, thinking you know it all, etc…
I add to that list “organizational rigidity” — people getting so aligned with rules and procedures that they automatically stop listening to new ideas. Here’s a recent post I wrote that explains a bit more:
It could happen in our personal lives as well. We get so connected to our habits that we shut out anything that represents change.
Happy Friday to all,
Happy Friday to you.
Thanks for the list and especially for the link. I love your post explaining how procedures blog listening. It’s just great.
Happy Friday to you too,
Kate regularly adds value to the Leadership Freak community. Read her bio at: http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/kate-nasser
Freudian slip Dan or auto correct on your software? I do know my fingers are slower than my thoughts. Maybe blogs do sometimes block listening, hmmm. Just wanted to let you know we are all listening and reading!
OK…so I was in a bit of a hurry! 🙂
I think I might “blog” you from making any more comments on my “block.”
What you think may not be that important, and yet it may well be dangerous. Recent research shows us that many managers believe they are much more competent than tests reveal. In fact the less competent they are, the more competent they believe themselves to be. And the more likely they are to point elsewhere towards the source of the “problem”. Oh dear. I see a downward spiral which includes a tendency not to listen.
When I first read the post I got a little confused (happens easily to me) but I think, at least I hope, I’m now getting a connection between thinking and listening.
Thanks for your insightful comment. I think Sutton in Good Boss Bad Boss may refer to the problem of perceived competence.
You challenge me!
Best to you,
PS. I emailed Doug concerning what I did that was confusing. He mentioned the tweet I posted about this blog was about “thinking” but the blog is about “listening.” Thanks for the feedback Doug.
I was talking with Kerry from ResonateOrDie yesterday about this issues. Then I was thinking on my here (to Catalyst) and wondering how I can be a better listener. Thank you for you thoughts.
Best to you as you work toward better listening…I’m working at it too. Dan
Dan – My guidelines for myself, a lifelong recovering non-listener:
– check the assumptions at the door
– dial up curiosity
– lead from the heart
I find I keep getting better, and make mistakes daily.
Listening to you
I think we are all charter members of NLA…Non-Listeners Anonymous…Hiiiii M.P.!
Love the images of ‘dial up curiosity’ and ‘lead from the heart’ M.P. Hard to go wrong with those.
I’m with Doc. I really like “lead from the heart.” To me that means always keep the ultimate heart felt goal in mind. For example, the goal isn’t conflict resolution is relationship building. I want more than a resolution, I want a relationship.
Best to you,
Mark regularly adds value to the Leadership Freak community. His bio and contact info: http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/mark-friedman
Just 3rd-ing the comments about “lead from the heart,” Mark. An excellent summary!
Bet there is a solid blog/thread just on that!
Whether we are looking at this as person to person, or business to customer, it is important to remember that it is the perception of the person on the receiving end of the message that matters. Great point Dan.
Now to add to the list of what blocks listening:
* having a your own pre-set agenda for the conversation
* focusing on how you will reply BEFORE they have even finished speaking
* interrupting the other person
* demonstrating by body language, inflection, or tone that you really do not care what they have to say.
It’s important to always remember that in business and in life, communication is a 2 way processs. If you demonstrate that you are not really intersted in listening, you may soon find that no one wants to listen to you either.
Thanks Dan and have a great weekend.
I’m always glad when you drop in… thanks for your comment.
Beyond the good content, I’m taking one lesson. If people don’t seem to be listening to me, perhaps I need to better listen to them. Zing!
All the best,
I always enjoy the discussions when I can drop in. Thanks for making them possible.
Have a great weekend!
Good Friday am Dan,
Another great discussion. I was struck by “she felt trapped by his assumptions” what a great way to describe how it feels to be misunderstood by someone who has a tendency to leap forward in discussions within their own context. A sure sign of this trait is a ‘sentence finisher’. Whether it is a personal or professional interaction, we all need to try to listen through the perspective of the other person.
This makes me think of a very common saying that I think need to be re-written.
“Be onto others as you would want them to be onto you” should be re-written to say “Be onto others as they would want you to be onto them”.
My point being that a good listener and a good friend or colleague will make the effort to understand the drivers behind your words and wants.
Thanks again Dan and have a super day!
“Be onto others as they would want you to be onto them”.
Dawna going platinum! Great shift! Thanks!
Good Friday afternoon to you Dawna,
Thanks for your comment. You are right on the money. When someone else rushes ahead full of assumptions about what we meant, the conversation becomes one of clarifying, correcting, and changing assumptions. It’s not an easy conversation. It’s not even the conversation that was intended to begin with.
I’m delighted you stopped in. Best to you with your blog.
You can read a funny story of how my Master Sergeant taught me to be a good listener. http://bit.ly/b8Yi5D.
Funny thing was, I learned in order to listen well, I had to stop wanting to talk… ever, in a conversation.
Now I just view each conversation as an opportunity for them to to hear themselves think.
Truthfully, that’s why they now call me the miracle worker – I simply allow them to talk to themselves until they hear what they need.
What a great story Alan! I commented on your blog!
Great story on your blog. As you know, I read it awhile ago.
“stop wanting to talk.” Now thats a challenge!
You’ve said a lot in a short space.
All the best,
Alan regularly gives back to the LF community. Check out his bio and contact info at: http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/alan
This is a great subject Dan, and one I appreciate as it helps add support to a very real focus in my life. And that is listening to the things that are important to my children so I can have a real relationship with them.
Something that really blocks listening is being to focused on our own tasks and “pressing things” and our own harried moments. Being too busy to stop for whatever needs to be heard and even felt. Those tasks, though important, should not become more important than the living being who needs to communicate with you. There must be a balance, but I also want to remember that I value life more than things.
In motherhood, I have a lot of responsibilities and worries, on top of everyday “adult” life. Trying to make the ends of time and a dollar meet. And being a parent puts me into scenarios (sometime without warning) that I would never choose to face except that having kids drags me into it. You don’t survive without powerful skills of multi-tasking.
So when I’m in the middle of financial paperwork, or drafting a newsletter and then comes my son waving his latest robot creation around, or excitedly talking to me about the Lego virtual design he’s making…. Or my daughter is telling me all about the funny conversation between her girlfriends, or the details of a new drawing technique she’s trying out with her anime art…. And because they don’t always know how to “get to the point, and because I’m not wired to like Bionicles or understand drawing techniques, and I’m worrying about the finances at the moment… my eyes almost literally glass over.
It would be really easy to not really hear what they are trying to share or to turn them away because it doesn’t seem as important in the moment. And yet the answer is, paperwork and things will never matter as much as a life, much less my children. It’s really important and exciting to my son. He just achieved something new he couldn’t do before and wants to share that excitement with me. If I don’t listen now to the little things, even while they have trouble telling their stories, or explaining or getting to the point, why on earth would they ever talk to me about something bigger in life? How can I communicate with them about their responsibilities when I need *them* to listen? Their sharing has to matter. And if that means I have to work to meet them half-way, then I must.
There is a quote I came across long ago and keep on my wall that says it all. It’s from an immigrant mother who struggled to learn the English her children spoke. “…For if I stop trying, I will be deaf when my children need my help…”
The same goes for the professional life. How can I expect loyalty, or confidence or a myriad of other positive aspects to relationships if I don’t invest in listening, even when I don’t really understand, or they have trouble getting to the point, or it doesn’t seem as important in the moment because my mind is on something else? Because it’s not my perspective that matters so much as theirs. Even if their communication skills are lacking, it’s my job to meet them half-way to gain the most from what it is that they bring to the table and solidify that relationship.
So in the back of my mind I’m keeping this: How can you be a great mother or leader and make a difference in the world if you’re too caught up in your own stuff to hear?
Wow, super comment. I walk away from you comment with the belief that I matter and that my listening skills matter.
Very encouraging and challenging at the same time.
All the best,
Julia regularly adds value to the LF community. Her bio and contact information is at: http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/julia
Great Julia, i loved your comment, Thanks Dan for this great post
YOU TWO MATTER 🙂
Guess I don’t need to post now Julia, you captured it…:)
Not true! ;D But thanks for your always kind comments Doc!
What others think is more important than what we think about ourselves and what we think is less important that what others think about us. Self perception is self created and usually self satisfying as well. People generally do not want to think about themselves in the way that feel them unhappy. So, self perception seems to be self favourable whereas others perception might not be favourable. One of the reason why people talk more is that they do not want to listen anything against them. They offer less time for others to speak. This seems more like a strategy to shield them. People who listen more are more adaptive and prone to learn. And people who talk more are more rigid and resist to learn. People who talk more are also ego friendly and keep their ego more than their position and personality. This ego is nothing but self protecting mechanism to be superior in terms of knowledge, position and status. And unfortunately it is only perception not the truth.
I also believe through my experience and exposure that people who talk more have low tolerance power and low resistance capacity. On the other hand, people who listen more have deep sensibility, more maturity and indepth knowledge of people and organisation. They also have more emotional quotient. Listening is perhaps the best leadership quality and talking is perhaps the least desired leadership quality.
I believe fear blocks listening. Fear of being exposed about level of knowledge and truth. This fear creates ego and arrogance that reinforce the fear. In fact the same ego and arrorance create ignorance because it block your mind to learn new things. So, not learning new things is being ignorant.
When someone listen to me in the same way I say then I feel listened to.
I strongly believe that truth listens and false talks more. This might not be always true because people may have hidden intention to listen more for self interested agenda. But pattern based on repeated listen or talk are always reveals that truth listens and false talks more.
Powerful comment. You hit me good and hard with this sentence:
“Self perception is self created and usually self satisfying as well.” Reminds me of the idea that my opinion is the right opinion. Why else would I have it?
You’ve said so much. Thank you,
Ajay regularly adds value to the LF conversation. Read his bio and see his contact info at: http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/ajay-gupta
Great points. The listening self examination would be even tougher if one were to track the time you are actually listening excluding the time one spends formulating their reply.
Self perception is very tricky. I used to think that I was somehow better than most at evaluating my strengths. I’m not really sure why. Then I recently took a examination that graded many aspects. Naturally, I was right there at the median score for self perception. Most people would be surprised if they could find out what others really think of them.
Ouch! You’re killin me. I have to count the time that I’m formulating a reply too? Sheesh. 🙂
Maybe if we at least acknowledge that what we think of we is probably not aligned with what they think of we, we are on a good path.
Always great seeing you.
Best to you,
All of the posts so far have obviously energized me, in addition to having the privilege of being part of a treatment group yesterday afternoon that got me jazzed. So, what’s important?
One of leadership’s ‘jobs’ is to craft vision into reality, paint it in such a way that others see/feel and want to act on it as well. That requires more than just competent storytelling. It requires truly ‘witnessing’ those moments of success where the leader sees the vision into action…not necessarily on the leader’s part but on the part of those s/he leads. Then, with that focused witnessing/listening, etching those moments into memory to share with and point out to others.
In the group yesterday, which was a highly engaged group, I witnessed so many moments of positive regard, interaction, intervention and even transformational opportunities that I did not track them all. (non-traditional treatment group, by the way-physical activity of ultimate disc)
In talking with the group at the end of the activity and being so focused on my own stuff (writing up an article on the experience), I did not listen as well as needed/could have and did not address enough of the individual comments to provide positive feedback and appreciation.
My agenda superseded or blocked what was could have been even more beneficial and those gaps struck me at about 3 a.m. this morning.
Still, being human, I do know that there were elements that did go well, did get recognized and that is a good thing. (maybe the perfection bug bit me too this morning–from yesterday’s posts)
What helps people believe they are listened to, exactly what Dan and others listed along with that back and forth recognition, appreciation and as constant as possible feedback on multiple levels, verbal and nonverbal. This is another variation of ‘leaning into it’, with eye contact, physical positioning, etc.
Great thread, thanks again all!
Love how you share not only your insights but yourself and your story.
I’m having so much fun writing, reading, and interacting. You are an important part of that enjoyment.
Doc shares with and actively supports the LF community. REad his bio at: http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/doc
What blocks listening?
What makes you feel listened to?
The Listener NOT talking.
Have a safe and relaxing weekend…Dan and All
Have a good one yourself.
Jim is a friend and encourager. Take a look at his bio at: http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/james-leemann
Covey’s 5th habit? First seek to understand, then be understood.
As an ‘external’ brought in to coach in difficult situations (conflict, bullying, performance), I’m often told of previous efforts to get through to people, and how “s/he/they just don’t get it”. Although I’ve never had the honour of being called a miracle worker, I am no longer amazed at how often the breakthrough is achieved by the simple act of empathic listening. Sure, I have lots to say and I struggle as much as anyone – active listening is NOT easy. Perhaps that’s why we so seldom do it. But I can’t coach, influence or lead until I understand their paradigm.
Wonderful discussion – I learn and grow every time I come here (even though I usually lurk, not comment! 😉
So glad you came out of the shadows. I hope you don’t “slink” back into the shadows and disappear.
Success to you,
Excellent post – and a good kick in the behind. Even those of us who try to live by the adage “When We Think We’re Good – We’re Not” need to hear this more – I’m listening. Thank You Sir.
Thanks for your comment and the good word. I kicked myself in the pants with this one.
An acronym I really like when it comes to listening is WAIT – Why Am I Talking.
And another thing : the word LISTEN – when reconfigured – is SILENT.
Great seeing you again. Nice memory devices.
Although active listening is much more than being silent, sometimes silence is golden and gets the listening process started.
all the best,
Cinnie, great acronym…probably one that all leaders could ask themselves more often…daily? Thank you!
I read this blog before, and enjoyed the perspective and discussion I found here. I revisit it this time because of your tweet, and the bit of time I have on this Friday morning to chime in… better late than never, eh? 🙂
In my experience, listening requires real presence to the person or persons across from me, and includes using more than my ears. When I fail at presence, I may talk more/I may talk less, but I’m not fulfilling the potential of the experience.
I loved the “clarifying questions” bit. Mental models differ, and often misunderstandings are left uncovered because of assumptions, or because folks speak in declaratives that are left unchallenged for political or emotional reasons (fear of appearing less intelligent or whatever).
I also like the “Platinum Rule” (Doc & Dawna), which we use in our SpeedReading and SpeedReaching people workshops as “Communicate unto others as they would have you communicate unto them.” Translated into action, and taken to its highest level, the rule means presence and consideration of the personality and persons essence (there’s a difference) across from me, and thoughtfully, and even lovingly considering my way of relating in my communication with that person (or persons).
Dan, I take your point about contrasting our self-assessment with that assessment of others regarding our listening skills.
Still, since every communication is a relationship, and a “dance” (if you will accept the metaphor), I’ll venture that though one may lead, and one my follow at any given moment, it’s incumbent on all parties bring presence and consideration to the exchange, and in some cases that may mean speaking up or calling for a pause or letting someone know that you don’t feel as though the other person is listening.
Best to you…
You left a great comment that fleshes out some important ideas about listening/connecting.
The expression presence has power. It says I’m with you, I’m learning to understand you.
In addition, your suggestion that listeners talk is well taken. Definitely true.
Thanks for leaving some resource links.
Best to you,
Thanks Dan… flubbed a couple of sentences there, but glad you got me. Looking at the last one, it might have read:
BTW, Dan, I really like the feel of this sentence of yours…
You obviously struck a chord with people with this post. When I think what I have to say is so important or when I worry what people think of me I stop hearing what others say.
Thank you, Dan, for continuing to spread insightful tidbits that reinforce how to show up as a better human being.