Courtesy of NonProfit Times
It seems “busyness” is the measure of success these days. We power through our emails, conference calls, and business lunches at breakneck speed. All this frantic activity has taken a toll on our patience.
The result is that we no longer stop to listen to one another. The trouble, according to Ed Hess, is that the ability that’s getting lost in the shuffle is the very one must have to be a viable player in today’s workforce — the ability to truly listen.
“It used to be that the smartest guy in the room was the one who was constantly talking,” according to Hess, a professor at the University of Virginia’s Darden Graduate School of Business and author of the book “Learn or Die: Using Science to Build a Leading-Edge Learning Organization.” “Now, the smartest guy or gal in the room is the one who asks the right questions and then truly listens to what others have to say.”
The ability to truly listen is the most important 21st century job skill. As Hess explains in “Learn or Die,” it’s the core skill needed for the critical thinking, innovative thinking, collaboration, and real-time diagnosis and problem solving that only humans can do. And that’s important because it allows you to stay employed as technology takes over more and more jobs that people used to perform.
Many of us are terrible listeners who’ve picked up bad habits in order to stay afloat in today’s fast-paced business environment. Here are nine things about our worst listening habits.
- Thinking about your response before the speaker is finished. Most of us operate on autopilot much of the time. Our natural way of thinking is to confirm what we already believe, while our knee-jerk emotional reaction to new information is to engage in the three “Ds”: to deny, defend, and deflect in order to protect our egos. When it comes to listening, here too, our natural tendency is to confirm and defend; we focus more on ourselves than the person with whom we are speaking.
- Finishing the speaker’s sentence out loud or in your head. “We slip into survival mode, trying to move things along as quickly as possible, regardless of how important the interaction is. We stop listening and instead finish our conversation partner’s sentences in our heads. Of course, the downside is we don’t always get it right.”
- Interrupting the speaker. Hess tells how when he was in school he would wave his hand ferociously while his teacher was still talking. He’d wave so ferociously that eventually she’d stop talking just to call on him. He learned to interrupt his teachers to be the first to give the right answer. He explains that it was his way of showing others how smart he was.
- Letting your mind wander to think about something you think is more important. Multitasking has become a way of life for many of today’s professionals. But more and more studies are showing just how ineffective and unproductive multitasking makes us. Remember that the next time you’re trying to think through one problem while you’re in a conversation about another one.
- Interpreting the speaker’s message in a way that makes you feel comfortable or smart. Remember the three Ds — deny, defend, and deflect. Here again, they rear their ugly head. Good listening is not about you — it is about the speaker and trying to understand and relate to him or her.
- Offering advice before being asked. You might try to convince yourself that giving other people advice is a great way to show that you’ve heard them out and want to help them. But deep down you know that’s not true. Giving advice is really another way for you to validate your own opinions and make yourself feel smart.
- Sharing your own experience before fully exploring the speaker’s experience. Your experiences are your experiences. They do not match up to everyone’s reality. And in fact, in many cases, your view of the world will not even be accurate. It will be skewed by your preconceived notions, and everything that you don’t know that you don’t known.
- Defending yourself when receiving feedback. Hess wrote about “Mr. Feedback,” one of his early mentors. Mr. Feedback taught Hess how essential negative feedback is if you want to become the best in your field and the importance of pausing and reflecting rather than automatically defending, deflecting, or denying when you receive negative feedback. Hess writes that as he moved forward in his career, he realized how difficult it could be to get this kind of constructive feedback.
- Critiquing the speaker instead of their idea. Here’s another reaction we use to try to make ourselves look smarter rather than give the other person their moment in the sun. By critiquing a speaker instead of their idea, we’re really seeking to discredit them in order to invalidate their idea — hoping our own idea will, then, rise to the top.
Thank you to NonProfit Times for allowing us to publish this great article…much appreciated.
Ken Lazar, Principal
Ability Professional Network, LLC
Recruiting Sales and Business Development Professionals