It was a normal night in the Towne home. I came home from work tired, hungry, and needing a safe haven to sit and be quiet. Four rugrats had learned to give Dad a break those first minutes upon entering their world of play, adventure, questions, and innocent zeal of life.
As I sat down, I put my legs up and began reading the newspaper to unwind. Checking out the headlines and moving to the sports page, I began to enter a zone, tuning everything out as I immersed myself in the world described in the printed page, hiding myself behind the opened newspaper print.
Kids were talking but I was in a comatose cubby. I would occasionally grunt a response, say a polite “Uh-Huh”, “Yep”, “Mmm”. It was then that my daughter did something that has stayed with me for the past 15 years. She pulled the paper down and said, “Daddy, I need to you to listen to me with your eyes when I am talking.”
There is a valuable lesson in that statement by a child for all of us as we examine our listening skills that can and will impact our professional and personal lives. People want to be listened to and understood. They could care less how much you know until they truly know you care for them as a person. Employees want to be looked at when conversing with you. It is not what you say to them but what you get them to say about themselves that will be the measure of your listening.
Some helpful hints as you develop new habits in your listening skills based on a great book that I highly recommend entitled Just Listen by Mark Goulston…
1. Get yourself under control first before heading into a conversation.
2. Get to know someone’s story and open your mind to them, throwing out the preconceived perceptions of the person.
3. Get into their shoes and make them feel “felt”.
4. Make people feel valuable.
5. Get people to exhale.
6. Be real, genuine, and transparent.
7. The Impossibility Question. Ask these two questions: What’s something that would be impossible to do, but if you could do it, would dramatically increase your success? What would make it possible?
I recently asked my wife how she would rate me as a listener. When she didn’t respond, I used my own version of my daughter’s line to get her attention. I said, “Hey buddy, can you look at me when I am talking to you?” Being the remarkably gracious woman she is, she calmly put down her magazine and told me I am better than I was when we were first married. That’s encouraging! The bad news is that I know I have a long way to go in my listening skills, but the good news is that every conversation is an opportunity to practice and improve.
How would your family, employees, and those around you rate you as a listener? Take on one of the above hints and see how things improve for you and your listening skills. You can begin by “listening with your eyes”!