Next time you’re at a meeting when you are not a central participant, take a couple of minutes and watch some of the other people at the table.
Most of them won’t even look like they are listening carefully. Some are fidgeting in their seats. Some are checking their email under the table. Few of them are really listening to what is going on around them. Becoming a better listener takes effort and, most importantly, patience.
Be warned, however, for once you start truly listening you may find the process habit-forming. When people know they are being heard they tend to share amazing things we certainly would have missed otherwise.
"Of all the skills of leadership, listening is the most valuable—and one of the least understood. Most captains of industry listen only sometimes, and they remain ordinary leaders. But a few, the great ones, never stop listening. That's how they get word before anyone else of unseen problems and opportunities."
- Peter Nulty (National Business Hall of Fame Fortune Magazine)
Many listening problems emerge from the way most of us think about conversations. The structure of a conversation seems obvious. One person speaks. Then, another one picks up the thread of the discussion, and the different people contribute their thoughts.
By focusing on what you are going to say, you are paying the most attention to your own perspective on the conversation. That can make it difficult to see things from another person’s point of view. By trying to understand the context in which someone else makes a remark, you can often get a deeper understanding of the issues they are facing.
Know When to Quit:
There's nothing wrong with just saying, ‘I can hear that this is really important to you, and I want to give you my full, undivided attention. Can we wait for a bit? I need some time.’