Why is Listening so very, very hard?
Good question, why is listening so hard… (Hold on for a minute I have to get this call. Oh, ok, thanks.) so we were talking about why listening is so hard… (Just a sec, my son is texting me.) Ok, I’m back, wait, what were we talking about again?
Sound familiar? Unfortunately, conversations like this one happen millions of times a day.
At this very moment you are being bombarded with information. Between never ending texts, emails, phone calls and face to face meetings, your brain has to process, manage and sift through an overwhelming amount of information.
In fact, according to Roger Bohn, a researcher at the University of California-San Diego, people are being inundated with the equivalent amount of 34 Gb (gigabytes) of information—a sufficient quantity to overload a laptop—within a week.
Is it hopeless? No, not at all. But it does take intention and focus. Here are three not-so-easy ways to become a better listener.
TURN IT ALL OFF
I mean off, not just on vibrate. I have yet to meet a person who doesn’t lose focus for a couple of seconds whenever their phone vibrates, wondering who is calling, texting or emailing.
For an important face to face, close your laptop, turn off your phone and just be present for the other person. Your undivided attention will be mightily appreciated.
During phone calls don’t read emails, play Words With Friends or do anything else. I recommend taking notes. It will keep you focused.
TAKE A BREATH
Too often we carry over our thoughts and feelings about our last conversation into the next one. Doing this can muddy both conversations in your mind and makes listening much harder. So, before you start a conversation, stop and take a breath—it will help your brain refocus and allow you to better be present for the conversation.
LET QUESTIONS KILL ASSUMPTIONS
Our brain loves patterns. Recognizing patterns is a way for us to categorize information to save us time and energy. Sounds great doesn’t it? The problem is that for our brain-loving patterns, efficiency can lead to a lot of assumptions. Assumptions can get us in trouble. Check—are you sure that what you heard is what they meant? Ask the kind of questions that bring clarity. “What I heard was… Is that what you meant?”, “I’m not sure I understand, can you tell me a little more?”, “How is that different from…?”
Sometimes I wonder how much important information is being lost because we didn’t take the time to really listen.
Start today and give the gift of your full attention to the person who is talking to you. You never know what you might learn by simply turning everything off—except your attention, and by breathing and asking questions.
Speaker Laurie Brown helps her audience improve their communication, presentation skills and customer and employee engagement. Her work has earned a reputation as a highly engaging, fun and effective professional, who gets results for her clients.
Interview with Laurie Brown
What got you interested in communication?
I find communication infinitely interesting. I have been studying communications since I attended college and I am still studying it. Communication is the lifeblood of all relationships, both personal and professional.
How are your keynote presentations unique?
Making my programs as interactive and engaging as possible is a passion of mine. Participants will leave with actionable tools and techniques that they can use to improve their communication both at work and at home while having fun. People learn better when they are laughing.
Could you tell us 3 habits you think are vital to successful communication?
• Listening more than talking. Really hearing someone is powerful.. It helps with all aspects of your life.
• Challenging your assumptions. Ask questions even when you think you totally understand the other person. Assumptions happen without even thinking. Stop, take a breath, and check in.
• Using chameleon communication. By that I mean match your communication style to the person who you are speaking with. Do they like to process before answering? Slow yourself. Do they prefer to get right to the point? Do the same. Most likely you already modify your style. For instance you don’t talk to your grandmother the same way you talk to your mates at a bar. Try to minimize the communication styles differences whenever you need to be more persuasive.
Who or what inspires you?
Those people who use their voices to create change, to provide comfort, to make a difference.
Do you have a favourite experience from your speaking career?
Speaking to the government of the Kingdom of Bahrain about improving their customer service. It was wonderful to see that great service is important to all people around the world.
Describe yourself in 3 words.