Top Ten BlockBuster List of Achievment Killers — #4


Block: Lack of Listening.
Buster: Shut-up, get over yourself, pay attention.

The fourth BlockBuster Achievment Killer is “Poor Listening Skills.” In the baseball game of conversations, negotiations, and all forms of communications, we have a nation full of pitchers, but very few catchers. That means we have a lot of balls that were in the air, rolling aimlessly on the ground because no body bothered to pay attention. Listening is truly akin to catching. We must remain silent, focus on the person speaking and try to catch the meaning, the intent and the agenda, if there is one. Where is the speaker coming from? Literally, is there a cultural component to the message? What emotions are clouding the message or hidden within the content?

Our baseball game of communication is very lop-sided. We have lots of people winding up and throwing a message, but few people are bothering to catch it, because they’d rather throw instead. Why? Frankly, their attention is somewhere else, most often it’s on themselves and what they are going to say next. Then there are all of those perceptions that men and women are from different planets so they can’t possibly “get” each other. And, we know that kid-speak is a code, teenagers speak in gibberish, young adults are way ahead of us, middle-agers are totally out of it and seniors simply can’t hear. Middle management can’t get through to executives, Assistants have no voice, departments have their own languages. And what about “those people” from the new company you just merged with? “Why they are truly from another planet.” Managers, leaders, politicians, clients, worker-bees, suppliers, vendors, creatives, number crunchers, government workers, freelancers – each category, and there are hundreds of them, has its own language.

So, you think you want to listen better? Here’s the plan.
1) Before you say anything, take a deep breath and focus on the other person. Look into their eyes. Tap into their energy. What is their body language saying to you?
2) Take another deep breath and prepare to listen.
3) Listen so intently you could repeat what they are saying. In fact, do that. Repeat it to yourself and then talk for the first time by saying, “This is what I heard you say…is that right?
4) If something said triggers an emotion, take a few seconds of silence to ask yourself why, and when you have an answer make sure it is valid in the context of this situation. If there is anger, distrust, misperceptions, prejudice, jealousy or any of those conversation stoppers involved, they must be disarmed. Shouting is the antithesis of communication.
5) Weigh your responses and throw out the first 3 to 5 of them as they are probably old programming belonging to someone else.
6) Ask questions that show your interest and bring out more of the other person rather than being stuck in misunderstandings.
7) Keep judgment, criticism and blame out of the conversation. Focus on whomever you are talking to with the goal of understanding, not winning, pontificating or disagreeing and you will be a sought after conversationalist.

One more thing regarding meetings, lectures, workshops, presentations, and the many forums in which people come together to learn and grow. Devote the first 25% of the meeting to listening. Leave all of your perceptions outside the meeting room and see what your open mind, free of its constant chatter can wrap itself around. If after 25 to 30% of the meeting, the content is truly bad, then tune out and save your focus for something that matters. If you forget to check your watch, welcome to some new ideas that found enough open space in your brain to come in and stay for a while.

Watch for my next blog and number 5 on the Top 10 List of Achievement Killers – Status Quo – Following #1Risk Aversion, #2 Unclear Intention, #3 Lack of Time and #4, Poor Listening Skills.

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  1. Lena Nozizwe says:

    Thanks for the tips that will help me listen up. Otherwise I guess it’s a monologue.

    • Judith Parker Harris says:

      You got that right. Fascinating conversations happen in the silences when people stop, listen, absorb and then thoughtfully reply. We have a nation full of people in full-tilt monologue, interesting only to themselves.
      Believe me, the people you admire the most are listening — very carefully.

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