Making Time to Listen

In my freshman year of college, Mr. Robinson was my chemistry instructor.  An older gentleman that could have been easily cast in a movie as a caring, wise grandfather.  Mr. Robinson also did something very unique in his classes.

He refused to let students take notes while he spoke.

He said, “If you are writing then you are not listening.”   After he explained something, he would set aside time for us to take notes and copy his work from the chalk board.

I thought of him often in subsequent classes where I was doing all I could to write notes fast enough to keep up with the instructor.  There were even classes where if you did not write fast enough, the instructor would erase the board before you could copy everything down.

Granted, these notes were great to use later.  But it would often be “later” before I could consider and begin to understand the notes.  Those other classes were not as instructional.  They were, in many ways, dictation classes.

Mr. Robinson made time for listening, then time for notes.  He knew these were two different tasks for the brain and his students were the better for it.

Man in Meeting ListeningThe people in your life, business and personal, are less effective listeners when multi-tasking.  The same goes for you.  So…

* When speaking to others, do you give them time to listen?

* Do you make it easier to listen?

* Or are you the obstacle to listening, creating your own personal distractions or tasks that prevent focused listening?

* Do you put down your pen and focus on listening and learning?

* When you see someone making notes about something you said, do you pause and let them finish their notes so they can listen better when you continue?

Granted, there are times it is necessary to write notes while you listen.  However, that does not mean you should force this upon others, especially if it is important they understand what you are saying!

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About the Author

Glenn S. Phillips works with leaders who want to leverage technology and understand risks within. An author and blogger, Glenn is often quoted in national media, plays a really ugly tuba (it even has a bullet hole) and is a fan of dark chocolate and great puns.