Is Listening Like Eating More Vegetables?

I’m a presentation and communication coach, so why is “Listen” the first word in my tagline, and not the third?

Because listening attunes us to our audience – whether that is one on one with a client, leading a meeting or presenting to a large audience.

For those of us in the business of working collaboratively, building relationships, serving clients and influencing others, our willingness and ability to listen and attune is imperative.

Unfortunately, the directive, “listen more” seems to be as useful as “eat more vegetables.”

It sounds like a good idea. It IS a good idea. But it’s not always easy. And what do we often do with ideas that are good but challenging for us?

If you are like me – I’ve got vegetables filling the garden compost bucket more often than my stomach!

If you are going to make any kind of breakthrough in your work, relationship, family situation, and social patterns here’s something important to understand.

What Is Listening?

Listening is a act of respect.  To understand a situation or an experience from someone’s perspective, intentional listening is a must. To gather enough information to provide the best product or service for your client requires you to tune in.

Willie Cooper, a recent client, wrote, “…great listeners listen with an elevated sensitivity, sort of like Sherlock Holmes collecting clues on a baffling case.”
In the end, listening is about connecting.

What are Your Listening Bad Habits?

Do any of these ring true?

1. Multiple attention distractions are “ON.” Texting notifications, nearby conversations, phone ringing, colleague interruption, waitress delivering your meal, and you have 10,000 things on your mind.

2. You assume you already know what your client or colleague is talking about. “Yeah, yeah, yeah….”

3. Someone’s statement pushes a defensive response and off you go: interrupting, advising and contradicting what they said.

4. You’re nervous. When we are nervous, chatter replaces attentive listening.

In his article in Entrepreneur, Matt Mayberry calls listening “an art” and skill that makes you a great leader. I believe it is a skill that makes you a great colleague, partner, parent and friend as well.

I can’t tell you how to get more vegetables on your plate, but I can share some practice tips to better listening. 

The Art of Listening: 4 Tips For Success

1. Decide to Listen
Be intentional. Before a meeting, picking up the phone,
or logging into skype – make a clear decision to Listen!

2. Create an Environment for Success
Turn off devices. Close doors. When meeting in a public setting, sit facing away from activity around you.

3. Take A Deep Breath – Even Better…Take Three!
To bring our attention and presence to listening, we must be relaxed. I call this the “listening body.” If time permits prior to a meeting or call, take three deep breaths. Release tension in the body and especially the face. Physiologically, relaxing allows our hearing, vision and concentration to work more efficiently.

4. Don’t Simply Sit in Silence
Stay aware to what is needed in each specific listening situation.

  • Does this person need questions directed back to clarify their point or dispel assumptions?
  • Do you need to affirm their contribution before you speak?
  • Does this situation call for your feedback or insights? If yes, be sure you don’t  hijack the topic and make it about you or your situation.
Teaching the Art of Listening is integral to my Business Training Program and Speaker’s Learning Lab. Contact barrie@standanddeliverasheville.com for more information.