Let’s admit there are times that what we are expected to listen to is, well, not really worth hearing. Or it may be worth hearing by someone, it is just not relevant to us.
I encourage my team to talk about project issues with each other. There are also times where someone will solve a real beast of a highly technical problem and in their excitement, share the steps and the solution. Sometimes this is very detailed. I like to see this passion and encourage it. At the same time, there are situations where the interest is there but the timing is just bad or the solution too detailed to really follow casually.
For instance, I may have my head in a client’s project, designing a solution, or documenting a compliance assessment. It can be hard to keep your head in the task and still listen.
I think most people just pretend to listen and keep thinking about their work. In our office, we overcome that problem because no one gets their feelings hurt if one of us says, “I think that’s great but I have my head in this project and all I’m hearing right now is ‘blah, blah, blah.’”
This response gets a smile, as we don’t take it personal and we all appreciate a colleague that is “in the zone” and getting work done. But most people can’t be this honest nor appreciate this type of honesty. It takes trust and mutual respect.
Of course, our in-house response is probably too blunt to use outside of our office, even if it is meant humorously. However, you can say essentially the same thing to someone instead of pretending to listen (which is really a lie of action). “That sounds great. Glad you found that answer, it sounds like it was a tough problem. I’ve got my head in something but way to go!” Or perhaps, “That is great, so glad you found the answer even though it sounds very involved and you’ve already lost me. But great job!”
Listening is important but it is also important to keep our conversations relevant and honest.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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