Are you listening — like seriously listening

Its so hard to believe that its the middle of  January of the new year — is it too early to ask “where has the time gone” 😉

This time of year, its very common to have meetings and session to plan out strategy or objectives for the current year. Everyone wants a seat at the table — but once you’re at the table you’ve got to have something important and profound to say or contribute. Right?

My short answer would be — “Right” — but think about HOW you’re contributing not just on WHAT you’re contributing. This means listening to understand not just to listening to rebuttal.

I’m sure you’ve heard that phrase or concept before — but if you have, ask yourself this: When you are “listening” to you immediately think about what you’re going to say or formulating your “big idea” or are you concentrating on what the current speaker is saying? When you are “listening” to you find ways to dismiss or interrupt the current speaker so that you can steal the floor and interject with your idea or contribution?

You’re probably in the first bucket (but if you’re in the second, stop it, that’s just rude 🙂 ) — try some of these tactics instead.

  1. Put your pen down and give the speaker your full attention instead of “taking notes” of what they are saying so that you can “agree” or “disagree.”
  2. If you need to take some notes, use key words to prompt you and then put your pen down – its a small gesture, but helps you take notes, but also shows others that you’re in the moment and listening. The speaker will notice and appreciate this but others will notice too and likely follow suit. It takes a bit of the competition out of the meeting.
  3. When its your turn to speak, offer a quick sentence or detail what you heard (and acknowledge others input/discussion) and THEN add your feedback or contribution. i.e. “Joe I like your idea to do X and Cindy you bring up a good point with Y. Have you considered XYZ”
  4. Have a meeting after the meeting — the only time to contribute and influence isn’t AT the table — it may also be AFTER the table. Follow up with participants after the meetings, send an email recap, or start a discussion in a shared discussion area. A follow up meeting doesn’t have to be formal – actually an informal meeting such as a hallway chat, impromptu desk meeting, or even meeting at a common area (coffee area, lunch room, water cooler) will work. You may question the timing on this one, but you are likely catching people at a point that they are processing the information. The last two suggestions offer ways to continue the conversation and offers an alternate way to contribute.
  5. Improve your skills at “impromptu” speaking. Did you just ask yourself, “What is ‘impromptu’ speaking?” I’ve been a Toastmaster for years now and one thing that we practice at each meeting is speaking on the spot through table topics or evaluating a speech. The setting might be a little different than a meeting, but you’re gaining skills to listen and to formulate concise relevant responses. Personally, I’ve realized that as my ‘impromptu’ speaking improves, the more confident I am in my contributions and the more open I am to LISTENING.

When you are actively listening you’ll start to notice gradually notice some changes in the how people approach and work with you. I may even go so far as to suggest people will wait to hear your feedback and look forward to what you have to say instead of you fighting for a spot to be heard.

I love discussion and feedback –so let me know what you think (agree, disagree, it depends…)  and please feel free to share your thoughts or ideas on how to be a better listener .. after all your employees and team members deserve it. How do we get better at it?

Once you listen, you can truly understand and take the right action.

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