Listening and Hearing

There’s an old sage of, “Listen more than you speak.” The problem in today’s world is far too many think listening is merely the act of allowing the vibrations of sounds within their eardrums. For them if the medical definition is accomplished that’s all that counts. Regardless if they understand what was said or not.

There is probably no more important skill in business or life you can acquire or hone than listening properly. I don’t use the terms acquire or hone loosely. It’s a skill – a real skill. It’s both teachable, and improvable at any age.

Here’s an analogy. Imagine you were trying to learn or even improve just how well you could run the hurdles in a 100 yard race. You might know how to run, and jump. However doing it efficiently – in unison, is something to learn, practice, and hone to the best of your abilities. Just one time on a track even for fun would show you just how much you needed to learn or improve.

You can do virtually the same in the listening arena, but you have to be willing to step into the lanes and honestly judge your own performance. Any deficiencies will become apparent quickly as soon as you leave the gate. You’ll either clear the first hurdle – or you won’t.

There probably is no better real-time example to test oneself than what is transpiring with the debate of the “Fiscal cliff.” I know many of you are sick to death or frustrated with what is currently taking place. However you can use such events to your advantage as a game of testing your skills against some of the best debaters (or hurdler) available today: Politicians.

Instead of tuning out or throwing objects at your television or radio, why not use it to your advantage? It’s not like you can avoid it. So here’s what I propose…

When ever possible either at home or elsewhere find a place where you can actually sit uninterrupted. Have a note pad of some type at the ready. When one of the key players during this negotiation begins to speak (pick whomever you wish) listen carefully, and write down key points that immediately hit you as your listening. Don’t look down to write if watching, or try not to let your eyes move off what you’re focusing on if just listening. Just listen, and write key points that hit you.

Listen to the person interviewing if there is one – how the questions are framed – then exactly what words or phrases are used to answer. Don’t prejudge – listen.

When the interview or speech has concluded write a one sentence line or so about what you thought the tenor of what you heard meant. i.e., Seemed combative, evasive, spoke but said nothing, wouldn’t acknowledge, etc., etc.

Next time when the opportunity arrives, right before they speak re-read your notes. Then again just listen. However don’t write this time – just listen. When they’ve finished look back to your previous notes. Did you notice anything new? Did they clarify anything? Did they confuse their position with meaningless dribble? Are you still of the same frame of reference as you were when you first made a note? You get the picture.

Compare honestly what you first wrote to what you heard in later examples. Did it seem like you understood what was said clearly the first time heard? Did they change what they said, or nuance a different meaning to what was said previous? Did they change their position 180 degrees without acknowledging such? Did you understand or hear correctly at first? Are you now questioning your first interpretation?

Many of you already do this type of exercise daily in your own way. You’ve run the hurdles of negotiations for some time. It’s not new. But for many you never had a real way to self examine your skill level or see if there needs any improvement.

The mere act of aggressively listening in a regimented fashion alone can show oneself you might not have been paying as much attention elsewhere, or with others as previously thought. And there is no better real working model to use or practice with than a politician. Regardless of what side of the aisle.

If this exercise has no other benefit except to transform the current back and forth gibberish into something useful you can use. Then it’ll have done more for your sanity than the cardio effect of actually running hurdles.

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr