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Thursday, August 5, 2010

It is hard to listen with your mouth open

There's a reason God created us with 2 ears and only 1 mouth!

Are you the person who interjects into each and every conversation? Do you feel the need to correct someone who is speaking immediately? Do you find yourself sometimes speaking before you actually know what is going on? If so, you are no different than 95 or 96% of the population. You are not a great listener.

I picked up this great material from an accomplished keynote speaker Darren Hardy to help us learn something new today.

Contrary to what many might think (and many practice), the most important job of a leader is not to speak, preach, direct or advise….

The most important job of a leader is to listen.

I personally believe if we just developed and improved the habit or listening, active listening, then the world would be a much better place. Have you ever gotten into a misunderstanding or dispute with someone, only to regret saying things you didn't mean? Statements were made in anger, and yet those words can't be taken back. As a result of lack of listening, people tend to invalidate and hurt each other.

Don’t be an Offender, Intruder, Blockhead or Egoist.

The Offenders. These people are the worst. They make it clear you are so unimportant or they are so bored by your conversation that they look at something else while you talk (BlackBerry, e-mail, brochure, someone else over your shoulder, anywhere else but directly in your eyes).

It is well-known that one of Bill Clinton’s most compelling traits is his ability to listen deeply to whoever is speaking to him, no matter who else or how many other people are in the room. It is said that if he is talking with someone, he won’t even break eye contact to reach for his glass of water. He will feel his way to it, but he will never, ever break eye contact. He treats you and makes you feel like the most important person on the planet when you are talking. We all should strive to be that influential.

The Intruders.
These are people who can’t be bothered to let you finish your sentence before cutting you off, figuring out (falsely) what you were going to say, and giving your their interrupted opinion.

The Blockheads.
They spend the conversation thinking about what to say rather than listening at all. They will scan the conversation, lock onto a point they want to make and shut off hearing you at all so they don’t lose their mental point—making it obvious with their facial expressions and body language that they are impatiently waiting for you to (finally) take a breath or end your (dang) sentence. They then respond, and you realize they didn’t listen to you and missed the point completely.

The Egoists. Instead of listening to you and caring about your story, your feelings and experience, they “me-ize” your comments and respond with their similar experience, problem or yarn.

These are the most fun to watch (and most common), as people will volley from person to person changing the conversation to them rather than listening and engaging the original storyteller.

Recognize anyone in the above? Friends, colleagues, family members—yourself?

Don’t be an Offender, Intruder, Blockhead or Egoist.
Listen so intently that the other person feels they are the most important person in the world while they are speaking.

What do you do to make people feel heard, validated and important while they are talking? What are your best listening practices?

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