Taking the Time to Listen... - [website] Email Print
Published: 29th of Nov 2018 by: Carolyn Kessler

Be honest – how often do you truly give the person with whom you’re speaking your total and undivided attention?

I’m pretty sure most of you would answer in the affirmative. I’m equally sure that most of you would be wrong. In order to see which of us is correct – you or me – assess the next interaction you have with a colleague or client. Then rate yourself on a scale between 1 – 5, with 5 being excellent.

I’ve raised this subject because it’s dear to my heart. Both professionally and personally, I observe miscommunication happening continually, simply as a result of the parties involved listening to each other with ‘half an ear’ as the saying goes.

There’s a constant deluge of information pouring over us, and I fear we’re drowning. Demand for our attention is never ending and comes from numerous sources at the same time, all the time. Some of it is out of our control and some not.
For instance, I can choose to put my cell phone on silent and out of sight when engaged in a conversation, or not. I can claim the moral high-ground here because I make a point of being a good listener, my effectiveness as a facilitator depends on it. But it’s a choice I make – professionally and personally.

I choose to do this is not just because it’s incredibly bad manners to check my phone and/or send a message whilst I’m ostensibly focussing on someone. I do it because if I don’t, I have to waste time asking them to repeat themselves; the information literally ‘goes in one ear and out the other’, unable to engage my brain in the process!

My brain cannot focus on more than one thing at a time, and neither can yours.

Recent studies have shown that we are actually damaging our brains with this constant multitasking – no lies. In those studies they also found that having our cell phone in line of sight, even if it’s on silent and face down on our desk, eats up 20% of our focus at a subconscious level.
When our parents used to make us look them in the eyes as they gave an instruction, they knew what they were doing. This was a way of ensuring our focus was on the interaction at hand only and was therefore far more likely to have a mutually beneficial ending.

If I’m on the phone, I can clearly ‘hear’ if the person on the other side is busy with something or someone else at the same time. Their distraction is palpable and what it says to me is: “You’re really not important enough for me to give you all my focus.” I guess they would deign to remain mindful and focussed if I were the CEO of their company though, which proves my point – it’s a choice.

Please make a habit of actually listening with a view to truly hearing and understanding each other - enough of treating one another with disrespect. Let’s make a pact with ourselves: we will endeavour to give the other party all our attention and, when we can’t, to apologise and explain why not; ask them if they are okay with our participating in the conversation at that level. If they aren’t, we can suggest we contact them as soon as we’re finished with whatever is consuming your attention at that moment. It’s good manners and makes the difference between appearing slipshod or professional.

Join us on one of our Communication Excellence courses, it is a skill that has to be taught and re-inforced.


Email us at info@StaffTraining.co.za for more info or give us a call at 0861 996 660

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