Seven Secrets to Listening When Time is Short
The need to feel important closes ears and open’s mouths. Listening is both humble and humbling.
Talking makes you feel important.
Listening to others makes them feel important.
Seven reasons you don’t listen:
- Entitled. You deserve it. After all, you’re the boss.
- Big brain. You know the answer. Quick minds stop listening quickly.
- Helpless. You’re problems are so big you can’t hear anyone else.
- Militant. You’re defending your position.
- Judge. Everything is either/or, so you can’t explore.
- Insecure. Needy people need to talk.
- Blame. You’re finding or assigning fault.
You can’t get the best from
those who don’t feel heard.
Seven secrets to listening quickly:
Quick listening isn’t the best, but it may be your only option.
- Explain time pressure. “I’m interested. I only have five minutes before my next meeting.”
- Relax the tone in your voice. Take a breath.
- Begin where most conversations end. Ask, “What’s important about this?”
- Say, “Tell me what you want to tell me.” Help them get to the point.
- Ask, “What can you do?” Avoid reverse delegation – that’s when their problem becomes your problem.
- Establish accountability. “Call me tomorrow and tell me what happened.”
- Stick with time limits. If you said, “Five minutes,” then stick to it.
Bonus: When appropriate, invite them to a longer conversation.
Five steps toward calm listening:
(even if you only have five minutes)
Calmness is an invitation that says people matter.
- Monitor your calmness level while listening. Imagine yourself watching yourself. Awareness usually does the trick.
- Open your hands under the desk and hold your palms up. Or, sit with your arms open.
- Ask at least three questions before making one statement. Assume you don’t know.
- Test and explore rather than defend.
- Forget your answer, explore theirs.
Bonus: Express gratitude.
What listening strategies help you listen well?
How can leaders listen well when time is short?
Love the last line: “Forget your answer, explore theirs”
My recent listening strategy is to see myself adding value by being the best listener they encountered that day or the whole week and NOT by trying to interject with my own opinion or response. Ask questions to get clarity and show you really heard them.
What a great strategy! I’m adopting your strategy… “Be the best listener people encounter” That’s a life long challenge for me.
I also like the “forget your answer, explore theirs” tactic. I’m interested in thoughts on when their answer impedes both their work and others’, i.e. they are taking on too much and perhaps should let something fail…
This is great Dan, and a subject I find very fascinating. I think listening is such an important skill that many people think they have – at least they talk as though they do 🙂
A few phrases come to mind about listening that I like. One is by Jacob Needelman, I believe, who says ‘listening is an ethical act.’. Another is an acronym, and I would like to attribute it but do not know the source. It is W.A.I.T. – standing for – Why Am I Talking ?
Simplistic as it may sound, when I coach leaders who tend to over-talk (and not listen), I sometimes incorporate this acronym to help them gain some insights into their motivation at the time. Since over-talking happens within the coaching conversation there are lots of opportunities to explore their reasons and what they are not hearing, the impact and the missed opportunities..
Powerful addition to the conversation.
The acronym W.A.I.T. made me laugh because of it’s simplicity and applicability. Love it.
Wow. I needed this yesterday.
Best on the journey.
I am working on being a better listener. This helps. Thanks!
I’m working at that too. Leading through listening is a powerful opportunity
Well I have found just for me Dan if I got one thing that works I don’t need 7. Lol if I got 1 I can’t use 7 at one time anyways, right? Hehe
So one way that works and use it.
The way for me is to put aside my world class self obsession, ego, self importance, bombastic self absorption!!!!! Basically stop playing God and PRAY!!!!! Overcoming my self centered ness…beyond human aid, gotta have Gods help so I humbly ask for it!!!
Something like, “Hey God, you da man but like God and stuff. Figure you put me here for a reason, to be of maximum service to you and your other kids. I am gonna do my best to stay consciously connected to you throughout this day and you inspire and guide me to what you would have you do, your will Big Guy not mine be done”.
Now see Dan if I do say THAT and MEAN that then when others get in my space God sent them there and I told God I’d listen.
So when I do this I have put myself into a corner where I got no way out but to actively SHUT up thinking about me and focus on how I can help the person directly in front of me in that moment.
Simply put, put others needs ahead of my own.
Or I can try 7 find they don’t work and look for 8, 9, 10 to infinity.
Just the way I roll.
The Dude Abides!
Shifterp back to Now!!!!
I’m a fan of finding one thing. I think it applies to organizations too.
Wonderful post, Dan. This is similar to how I deal with my kids…most of the time. Give them the spotlight.
I always enjoy it when readers apply these ideas to parenting. After all, parents are leaders. Cheers
I feel these are very important to apply to parenting. But Noble “I give my kids the spotlight”, I hope you don’t allow them to interrupt when engaging in a conversation with someone and stop to listen to the child. I hope you say hang on (whatever you call your child) let us finish or anything along those lines, or teaching them to say excuse me I need to tell you something. I apply all these to my children and I never speak about myself to other people. I’ve only ever had it twisted and the stuff come back to me meaning nothing of what was said in the first place. So the only person I am selfish with as far as speaking about myself or our life is my husband, others usually have to ask me whats going on with this or that and I’m vague. I live in a very miserable area where people don’t want to see anyone happy, they think your career, bank account, and last name are more important than your mind. Plus I’m more of a giver then a taker, as long as I have my best friend (hubby) to communicate with, I’m fine with that!
“Insecure people need to speak more” is often the core reason why they do not listen to others. They fear of being exposed. They fear that people may ask them personal questions. And that is why they develop a strategy to not allow anyone to speak more. This may not be true to everyone, but I have experienced most of the people behave in this way. Such people also tend to develop a feeling of being important. They also try to show that they know more than others and superiors to many people, but the fact is that they are weak from within. Such people often afraid of engaging into hard discussion. They know that hard discussion could prove them wrong and that is why they also play managing technique.
I show sincerity and interest while listening to others. I provide them freedom to speak their hearts. I encourage their actions to speak.
When time is short, leaders can smile sincerely and tell the reason why they can not listen now. At the same time they should promise to listen next time. One important step may be helpful to leaders when time is short. They can ask the subject of discussion or one most important question. Leaders should show empathy and make others feel that others are equally important.
I respect the compassion I read in your second paragraph. Smiling and showing empathy are more powerful when time is short. Let me add, that appropriate touch may also apply here. A pat on the shoulder or brief touch on the arm goes a long way to maximizing brief encounters.
I’m generally saying what’s the question, what have done, and then focus on their voice. I notice I get distracted if I looking at their face.
The latter is a bad habit for connecting, but it helps me focus on what they are saying
I see you found a way to get to the big point quickly. Also, eye contact, as you indicate, can feel uncomfortable. I’ve read that looking at their chin or a spot on the forehead is an option to direct eye contact.
Great post Dan. Many years ago in a conversation with one of my mentor’s, he said, “we are born with 2 ears and one mouth, think about that.” A very valuable lesson to me. Still resonates with me years later, and keeps me on task to listen more and look for hidden messages that may not come out initially.
Most of us would be much better communicators if we adopted the rule of listening twice as much as we speak. 🙂
One of my favorite prompts, when I don’t get all of the information I need, is a simple “Say more about that.” Learned that phrase in my training as a Performance Consultant, use it all the time in my current role as a field leader. It is amazing how well and consistently it works! Gives people inherent permission to complete their thoughts, and conveys value in what they have to contribute.
The other thing “Say more about that” does is make me feel more in control. We can debate control but statements feel more assertive than questions. This is a question in the form of a statement.
Thanks Dan, I really appreciate your taking the time to post every day. It has a been a real benefit to me to read your posts. Glad you’ve got the gift of clarity…I need all the help I can get
It’s a pleasure to be of service. I’m not sure I have the gift of clarity. I think I have the gift of confusion and then work may way out of it. 🙂
Listening is perhaps the greatest gift we give others to affirm who they are. Listening makes us a better leader. We sometimes miss that. We think statements make us a better leader. Listening enables us to understand more of where people are coming from and allows us to formulate statements that have more meaning. If we listen first we often receive a great deal of insight as to how we should respond, to a situation, to a person.
You offer a lot of solid advice and understanding for how to do this in a world of 5 minutes. Nicely done.
Really like the idea of listen as a tool that gives our words more meaning. When we listen for their interests, we can speak to them as well. Cool
I have to work on remembering to say “what can you do,” rather than, “what can I do?” Why is that so hard?
I love the last line as well. I am one that can’t wait until the person is finished so that I can speak. The problem with that is that I did not hear what the person said….
I need to write that some where and maybe tattoo it because I love it when people listen to me I really need to listen to them.
So many times they have some very profound things to say…WOW
Excellent post Dan, i printed it off and put it in a spot where i can quickly refer to it. i especially like the tip “Imagine yourself watching yourself.”
i look forward to your insight each day!
Can you approve the rights to print this article and post it on my forehead? 🙂
In all seriousness I appreciate this article so much, when I was new to leadership one of the most common complaints that my employee had was that I would walk away from them in mid conversation or have a face of “I just don’t care.”
That was me a long time ago, but reminders like your article help remind me of how important it is to listen. The easiest thing for me was to remember that I myself love to be heard. I want others to know my stories, my ambition; I want to feel alive in the conversation. It took a while for me to realize that I am not alone, and not everyone cares about my stories either.
Sometimes, just simply showing enthusiasm for an employee and the small message they want to share is all they need to feel valued. When we are extremely busy, you’re right, just let them know you have a few minutes, or apologize and let them know you want to hear their message and setup a time you can commit to listening.
Thank you for your simple and impactful posts, you help in my journey to develop daily!
Dan, thanks for reminding us again what’s important. I’m continually trying to master reflective listening. One thing I work at doing is weaving their information into my response. It may be 3 minutes or 3 hours, but I incorporate what they’ve said into the conversation. It’s concrete proof that I am paying attention.
Great stuff again, Dan. Thanks.
One of the best learning tools, at least for me, with regard to becoming a better listener is Skype. I routinely use Skype with a multitude of my colleagues (I’m off-site) and it is invaluable for connecting with others. It also forces me to pay attention to my facial expressions and the attitude I’m reflecting.
It is very humbling to see myself at times and realize that I was, very obviously, just waiting for the speaker to quit so that I could talk. Ugh… Yep, that’s me some days.
Thanks for the post and the resulting conversation. Very helpful.
Great post. Yes, I do find myself talking too much trying to show how smart or knowledgeable I am. I have to let the ego go. I am working on listening with compassion and care versus just waiting to talk. I even find myself talking after a person’s short pause. I love the comment – ask at least 3 questions before making a statement. Being a great listener does require humbleness. When you show someone you can actively listen to them you may be surprised how much you learn. Work in progress…
Great, great, great tips! Not long ago, I visited two university presidents. We’ll call them UA and UB. They’re across the street from eachother; UA is a small public school while UB is a small (very expensive) private school. Both presidents had about 20 minutes before needing to leave for a meeting.
I caught UA’s president outside his office, where he never sat down, fidgeted throughout, and thanked me curtly for visiting. The president of UB, though, invited me into his office to sit and chat, listened thoroughly, asked questions, agreed to help, and asked me to follow up with him via e-mail on what we discussed. Time: 4 minutes. Value: Immense respect.
Part of my success came from being prepared; the other part came from this president’s willingness to give of his time and create opportunities for other people AND for his university. I walked away from both meetings with definite (and opposite) impressions.
Justin – It’s amzing to me how people like UA ever reached the positons they do. I must chalk it up to him having a bad day…maybe something on his mind which was really bothering him? No excuses but it is disheartning to see folks like this in high leadership positions. You would think they would know better.
How right you are! I really never thought about listening this way. That it makesTHEM fell important and isn’t that what leaders should do?! Thank you for a great post!
Thanks for the great article and for all the contributions in the comments. Well done all :). I like the idea of the root of good listening being humility- that’s an attitude of life long learning from the other. That’s a happier life and a better community all round
Question: how to handle someone who never stops talking long enough, so I can ask a question to clarify what he is talking about. I find myself zoning out while he is talking.
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