Listening is one skill that everyone – regardless of rank or role – would generally benefit from improving. I say this because it frequently surfaces in my work with clients AND because I experience it in my personal interactions. Since raising my own awareness of how I listen, it’s embarrassing how frequently I catch myself tuning out, splitting my attention, or making the conversation about me when I’m chatting with friends.
Is your interest piqued? Here’s a quick quiz to evaluate your listening prowess. Pay attention to the questions you answer “yes” to – those represent some opportunities for improvement.
Does My Listening Need Work? Self-Assessment
- I often use my cell phone when I’m enjoying a meal with others.
- I sometimes surf the web or send texts while I’m talking with someone.
- When I want to share a key point or idea, I may interrupt to ensure I don’t forget it.
- After some conversations, I struggle to summarize what was said.
- I keep a chat-app open and often respond while in conversation with someone else.
- When people apologize for getting emotional during a conversation, I often hadn’t noticed that they WERE emotional.
- I often respond in conversation by sharing a related story about myself or my life.
- I sometimes get lost in my head preparing my response to what was said.
- In business meetings, I take copious notes during the discussion, trying to capture everything that was said.
- If I notice the conversation getting too serious, I will change the topic or make a joke to lighten things up.
So how’d you do?! If you’re like most people, there was more than one “yes” on this list. In a culture that rewards multi-tasking and activity, it’s no surprise that deep listening has fallen by the wayside for most of us.
If you’ve determined you may have an opportunity to improve your listening, you’re probably eager to address it. Hang tight: I’ll write a follow-up post with some specific ways to build this muscle.
In the meantime, one simple thing you can do immediately that is likely to change your game: stop multi-tasking when someone is talking to you. Close your chat windows, your email, your laptop… STOP what you’re doing and focus on the speaker. Truly being present will make a huge impact on the quality of the conversation. And if you’ve read Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott, you’ll know that the conversation IS the relationship.
And who doesn’t want better relationships?