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PTO Musings: Just Listen!

I’m on PTO this week with nothing better to do than rest and take stock while summer saunters away. Wish me luck!

Unsplash photo by Belinda Fewings

Once upon a time, I took an American Management Association (AMA) class called “Executive Effectiveness.” There were eight of us. The teacher, Tuck Taylor, was so effective that we very quickly revealed everything about ourselves to each other. Since we didn’t know each other and would likely never see each other again, we didn’t hold back on feedback, and, for the same reason, we had no reason not to believe the input when it came.

“Do you know what your problem is? Your problem is you listen with your mouth!”

Fortunately, that accusation was aimed at one of my classmates, but it always stuck with me. Don’t do that!! Here’s an old journal entry triggered because I had just witnessed this problematic behavior in a meeting:

When you interrupt a question with your answer:

  1. you demonstrate you’re not listening
  2. you indicate what you have to say is both pre-determined and more important
  3. you demonstrate a lack of respect and a lack of trust
  4. you don’t really understand the question
  5. frequently, you may answer the wrong question
  6. you miss an opportunity to clarify and understand the question
  7. you generate ill will
  8. you can lose more of the audience than just the person you interrupted
  9. you look bad (and other things I can’t remember now)

Don’t listen with your mouth. Listen. Deeply. Be there. Focus. Keep eye contact. Wait. Be patient. Take notes if necessary. Wait. Keep your mouth closed. Wait. Did you understand the question? Are you sure? Maybe ask them to repeat it? Clarify. Maybe repeat back the question to make sure you’ve got it right.

Then, and only then, answer the frakkin’ question. You know, the question you were asked. Not the one you want to answer. And keep it simple!!! Especially for policymakers.

It’s interesting that within a year of writing the above in my journal, I gained new perspective on listening when I attended an AMA class based on Mark Goulston’s book, Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone.

I followed that up when I took Arbinger’s Developing and Implementing an Outward Mindset workshop (and train-the-trainer too!). One of my work signatures contains this snippet:

”Be a really good listener today. Talk less. Hear more.”

Still #workingonit!!!