The Art of Listening…?

I was in grade 8. It was lunchtime. Hanging out in the classroom with my friends, I was eating my tuna and pickled onion sandwich (home made onions by my Mom) and launching into a story.

I can’t remember the story now, but I do remember suddenly noticing one of my friends completely interrupt me to talk about something. I was incensed. I stopped talking. Eventually, all of my friends noticed my silence. The girl who had interrupted told me to continue.

I refused. I dug in my heels and point blankly refused. “You weren’t listening, so I’m not going to tell you the rest.” And, I didn’t.

When I was even younger and hanging out with adults a fair bit (I was an only child) I used to ponder the magic of these big people. As I watched and listened to them, I marveled at how they could talk and listen at the same time, since their voices were often all going at once.  As a kid, I concluded that you gained an extra sense when you became an adult enabling you to listen and speak simultaneously.

Nope!

Listening. Hearing. Empathizing. Sympathizing. Understanding. Relating. Connecting.

In recent rehearsals for a play, our director would remind us to listen, really truly listen to the others. This advice was always valuable as it pushed a sort of “refresh” button. Anticipating the delivery of your lines and your fellow actors’ lines kills the life in a scene.

In performance, you must hear, and speak the text as if for the first time. If you trust your listening skills, the interpretation will then reveal fresh nuances . The result is a greatly satisfying experience for both the audience and the actor.

In real life, ineffective listening shows up chronically.

Wandering eyes, vacant looks, the chest rising with a breath that is ready to interrupt with their own thoughts that are quickly formulating in their head, or a polite nod, are all clear indicators of an unsuccessful listener. And, they never ask questions. (The good ones do the opposite!)

In business, truly listening to a potential client, and being curious about their needs will most likely be more effective than constantly “pitching” them. I know most of us get annoyed at those badly scripted phone calls from large companies trying to sell us something.

The other day I had one of those calls. At breakneck speed, a guy assumed he had what I wanted and pitched me over and over, using statements like “I want you to..” “You need this..” “I will sign you up today…”. He most certainly was not listening to me as an individual with unique needs.

I stopped him and suggested, gently, that his company should change their tactics to ask what the potential customer would actually like before they assumed they knew best! Their business would most likely improve!

Today, we communicate frequently via the social media (Facebook, twitter, etc..)  where some “interesting” listening is occurring. Some people seem to think that constantly giving people information is a “social” action.

In my mind, being social usually entails listening, conversing, and possibly mutually creating deeper value. The  successful internet socialites shine and are a great example.

What do you think?

What is your best or worst listening experience, and your best or worst “being listened to” experience? I challenge you to observe those around you, and yourself as the art of listening unfolds. I will join you in this venture… honest!

Let me know how it goes.

(Oh, and by the way… one of the most important listening skills to develop is listening to yourself, your instincts, your ideas, your dreams, your loves, your questions, and your ponderings.)

And, for your listening pleasure…..

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