We might never admit it but often we are not listening. Many times this is a bad thing and our own fault. Perhaps we are daydreaming or listening to something else, or even thinking of what we are about to say. “I’m sorry dear, did you say something?”
While this can be a running joke (or accusation) among many couples, it is also common in business.
I was in a demonstration for new technology recently. I volunteered to attend this meeting, I think the technology has great potential, and I really like the staff of this company. Yet, I realized that during part of the demonstration, I was not listening very well.
Why? I could come up with several seemingly valid excuses. I’ve seen the demo before, I don’t have an immediate need for the technology, and I was a little sleepy after a busy week and a good lunch (compliments of the presenters). But isn’t making excuses just making the problem worse, empowering me to repeat this bad communication habit?
The truth is that I was not disciplined enough to stay focused. Once I realized this, I refocused again and even took notes on ideas I found helpful. Now I wonder how much the other people at the presentation where listening and how many were off somewhere else in their head like I was for a few minutes.
We sit in meetings with our mind on our smart phone’s emails and texts, or thinking of the work waiting on our desk, or just simply distracted by life. Maybe it is one too many meetings, maybe the topic does not apply to us, or perhaps we, like in my recent meeting, are just not disciplined enough to focus on the topic at hand.
I’ve long advocated that communication is a skill. Skill development takes awareness, practice, and coaching. Focus and discipline are important parts of improving any skill, be it communication (including listening), sports, writing, or even being a safe driver.
It is easy to make excuses for not listening. Maybe it is better if we work on our self-discipline and listening skills. We might just learn something important, even if it is just something about ourselves.
Glenn S. Phillips is the author of the book Nerd-to-English: Your Everyday Guide to Translating Your Business, Your Messages, and Yourself. You can email Glenn directly at email@example.com.
Glenn is also the president of Forte’ Incorporated, a consulting firm that works with business leaders to understand and address the often hidden technology and business risks lurking within their organizations.
© Copyright 2012. Glenn S. Phillips, Forte’ Incorporated. (205) 985-1111