Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Lost Art of Listening

I was at a meeting of a local service club, sitting at a round table with 7 other people. And, I was trying to keep track of about 3 different conversations that were going on. Suddenly, one of the conversations got a little more heated, a little more intense, and a little noisier than the others. Obviously this discussion got my attention and I began to listen to it more closely. It was a challenge to listen to the conversation and follow the argument because it seemed to be jumping all over the place.

Tempers flared as the conversation got more heated, with both sides making bold statements, and even accusations, about the topic at hand. It was not so much a back and forth debate as it was two people standing atop their soapboxes shouting out their beliefs. Fortunately, this conversation was finally interrupted by the scheduled entertainment for the evening and things quieted back down.

The actual subject being discussed by the antagonists is not really important here, and the issue was never really resolved. What fascinated me was the way the two people involved went back and forth, each one deeply entrenched in their beliefs and unwilling to yield to the other. On one level, the lively “discussion” made our table the most exciting table to be seated around. On another level, the lack of true communication was astonishing.

Later that same evening I spoke with one of the two protagonists and asked him about the exchange. Specifically, I asked him what point the other person was trying to make that had gotten him so upset. He rambled for a few minutes, focused mostly on “how stupid” the other person had been, before finally quieting down. I asked a few more questions about the incident, all meeting with similar responses, before coming to the obvious conclusion that my friend didn’t understand the point the other person was trying to make, merely that her statements had been “wrong.”

“But how can you debate the merits of her arguments,” I asked, “if you don’t understand what her point is?”

I’d like to tell you that a little light bulb went off in my friend’s head when I asked that question. I wish I could tell you that my friend realized he had been too busy making his own points to even listen to the other person’s perspective, but that would not be true. Instead, he continued his diatribe without pausing for thought.

I’m sure that many of you are aware of Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habit’s of Highly Effective People.” If you are not, it’s a book you should read. Habit number 5 is “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” It’s a valuable habit that we should all study and practice.

But how exactly do we do this?

What is the secret of understanding?

I’ll be writing about that next week.

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• Your Company Culture
• The Leadership Styles of your key managers
• The Expectations of your Employees

When these 3 factors are aligned, you create an energy in your company that improves productivity, reduces absenteeism, increases creativity, and positively impacts your bottom line. Contact ECI Learning Systems LLC today to get your free Workplace Evaluation.

Until next time......

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

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