Are they listening to you?
Are they paying attention, or did you get a gratuitous nod, while they scanned their iPhone? Do they understand what must happen for success? Have they agreed to be accountable? For a communication to be successful, you must watch and listen to assure that they have embraced your message.
Are you listening to them?
You may experience a failure to communicate after you’ve made your request. Check yourself. Pause to make sure you haven’t stopped listening to their response.
Charlotte Sophia Kasl, a psychotherapist and author of If the Buddha Married: Creating Enduring Relationships on a Spiritual Path, has some helpful advice on how to identify when we’ve stopped listening. Consider the following to correct your own habits; and to recognize when someone else may have stopped listening, and bring them back into the conversation.
How We Block Communication
- When we take the communication back to ourselves
“Oh, I did that too.” Instead of listening to the full response, you jump in with your personal experience.Say someone is trying to tell you that they had to re-install their software due to a computer virus. We cut them off, “Oh, I did that too.” Now, you have taken the conversation back, and you risk missing what you need to know about the impact and consequence of what they were trying to say before you interrupted them.
“Maybe it’s your hard drive.” Instead of listening, we begin problem solving.Say someone is trying to tell you about a situation that might interfere with your request. Now you begin to tell them what to do. Now, you’ve taken away the critical—and possibly optimal solution from the person upon whom you’ve asked for help—and robbed yourself of at least an option to consider. By gaining control you lose options.
- Shifting the topic to someone else
“Our IT department had that happen too.” Instead of listening, we jump in with a comparison to someone else.Now that you have effectively cut off the conversation, you have stopped the flow of information you may need to know.
- Not responding at all
“__________.” Instead of listening, you’re looking out the window, at your cellphone, or computer screen.This may be because you became distracted by something else, or were impatient to end the communication because you felt the discussion was over—you’ve said what you wanted to say.
Continue at your own peril.
- Make a patronizing statement
“Everyone has that.” Instead of listening you have sent a message that tells the speaker they might as well stop talking. Not only is this insulting, but it may harm future communications from taking place; another instance of cutting yourself off from information you may need to know.
- Respond with a platitude
“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Instead of listening, you’ve reduced the complexity and nuanced nature of a person’s response.While you may think you’ve adequately summed up the situation, the person with whom you’re communicating with may just as quickly decide it’s a waste of time to further communicate.
- Change the subject completely
“Oh, by the way, have you seen the new Johnny Depp movie?"Not only have you signalled that you’ve stopped listening, but you’ve ended the conversation without the confirmation you need.
- Interrupt with unimportant details, or out-of-context questions
“How is the weather; did you defragment your hard-drive first?”The conversation has shifted; and you are responsible for having created the distraction.
A great communicator, and author of several books on communications, Nido R. Qubein, notes in How to Be a Great Communicator that, “People who are poor listeners will find few who are willing to come to them with useful information.”
In effective communications—personal or business—our listening skills may determine the success or failure of what’s to follow.