Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Listen up!

My 3-year-old is not a good listener. it often takes two or three statements to elicit any response. And it can be frustrating. Partly it's his age, but we're also aware of the importance of teaching him to be a good listener. Because it's more than just manners. It's a life skill.

I know, that sounds terribly cheesy. But think how frustrated you get in the doctor's office when you see three or four different people--the receptionist, the nurse's assistant, the nurse, and the doctor--and they all ask you the same questions? Does it make you doubt their credibility? Do you wonder how they're ever going to get the diagnosis right if they can't even communicate why you're visiting?

Many of the attorneys I've interviewed on malpractice suits will tell you poor communication is one of the most frequent reasons doctors get sued. It's true. You can screw up big time, but the reason your clients will hang you out to dry is because you didn't communicate well. And step one of any good communication system is, you guessed it, listening up.

In Kay Lindahl's book, "Practicing the Sacred Art of Listening," she offers up some statistics to mull over. She writes, " Most of us spend about 45 percent of our waking hours listening, yet we are distracted, preoccupied, or forgetful about 75 percent% of that time."


Communication is critical in any number of jobs. And it's also a vital skill for healthy relationships--from marriage to workplace. How often have you asked a question, only to realize you never listened for the answer? Did you ever walk out of a meeting wondering what was decided--or what you were supposed to do next?

This also applies to e-mail communications. Ever send an e-mail to a business associate with a couple questions and receive the answer to only one of the queries you posed?

Bottom line: We all hate it when we have to repeat ourselves. So I vow today to be a better listener. My three things I'll do for myself today:

1. Practice engaged listening, including making eye contact, nodding, and smiling
2. Wait for others to finish before I start. (In fact, the best tip I've read is to pause for a few seconds to demonstrate you're considering what the other person said.)
3. Concentrate on what the other person is saying instead of formulating my response when they speak.

What will you do for yourself today?

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