Remember when TV’s Archie Bunker said, “The reason you don’t understand me, Edith, is because I’m talkin’ to you in English and you’re listenin’ in dingbat!”? How many people do you know that speak/listen in dingbat? And, do you?
Most people think they are communicating clearly and effectively. The reality is that too often, the mark is missed. When you miss it, the losses can be immense. The deal you were trying to put together can collapse or never given get to the starting line. The relationship that you are building may crash. The idea that you have that is a sure winner never gets off the ground. You just don’t understand what sabotaged you. The answer may be that you did it all by yourself by failing to be a good-a great-listener.
To determine what kind of listener you are, here’s a few questions to ask yourself:
- When someone is talking with you, do you doodle, take phone calls, or rearrange your desk or the space that you are currently in?
- Have others ever told you that you don’t pay attention when they are talking to you?
- When you meet someone, do you ever look over their shoulder for someone else when you or they are talking?
- Do you interrupt others before they finish their sentence or thought?
- Do you find yourself thinking about other things that need to be dealt with while another person is talking to you?
- Do you allow or encourage others to interrupt you when you are talking with another?
If you answered “yes” to any of the above, the simple truth is that you aren’t paying full attention to whomever is talking to you. You are a one-way communicator and most probably, a poor receiver. Granted, you’re a busy person and may even feel that your skill of handling multiple tasks all at the same time is an asset. It may be, but only temporarily. It only takes a small crack to rupture a dam-that crack could be the difference in getting the deal done, the relationship on track, or the idea sold.
Here’s what’s really going on when you don’t fully listen:
- If you are a doodler, it means that you are not paying attention. Some doodlers get so intricate with their doodling that they forget whom they are talking to.
- If you’ve been told that you aren’t “present”, even by your kids, most likely you aren’t.
- If you scan the room, whether legitimately looking for someone you’ve got to connect with or you just want to escape whom you are talking to, that person knows it. And so do you.
- Most people are pretty busy and what others to not waste their time. Cutting someone off in mid-sentence may leave you in midair…not really knowing what the intent or true point was. You lose.
- Out of body experiences don’t count in the workplace. It’s easy to get distracted, even spacing out, when you are doing or working with something that is so familiar that you can do it in your sleep. The problem is that you act is if you are-no energy or enthusiasm guides you-your behavior becomes “canned” and boring.
- When you allow others to routinely interrupt you, it says to the person you are talking/listening to, “You aren’t so important. . .others are.” Is that the message you want to convey?
As a listener, you listen with your ears and eyes. You listen with the sensing of those around you. It’s not difficult to pick up whether others are agreeing or disagreeing with, enjoying or not enjoying, what is presented.
The lack of communication skills can label you as being less confident, less attractive and less qualified to do a job. Is that the message you want to send?
No one is born or, for that matter, wakes up suddenly and decrees, “I know how to communicate. I know how to be a great listener.” Communication, both the speaking and the listening, is a learned behavior. The first component in becoming a terrific communicator is to learn how to be a terrific listener. With that comes an understanding that men and women and cultures and races have different communication styles, including Edith Bunker’s dingbat.