What I've gained from Listening

Building on my last blog post, "3 Overlooked Sources for Game Changing Ideas," I wanted to flashback to a post from August, 2015 where I shared 5 Tools for Becoming an active listener -- use these tools when gathering information from others.

There is a reoccurring theme in my life no matter who I am talking to and it is, "Does anyone listen to me?"  I've heard it a lot from multiple sources including clients in regards to their colleagues.  And I'm not necessarily just talking about using your ears in conversation.  I'm also, talking about email and written communication.

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I think in today's world we become so busy or so focused on our own stuff that we don't necessarily take the time to stop and listen or stop and read what people are trying to say to us. Studies actually show that we only remember 25 - 50% of what we hear. It could be as simple as an operations email about turning off the lights at night to something as very important as your largest client asking you for help and you missed the request. We are quick to dismiss people's words as trivial or unrelated to my current challenge when what they are saying could be the spark that was needed to leap the next hurdle.

 Listening is an attribute that I believe few people actually have and in many cases I believe people mistake the silence of a good listener for ignorance. The person that listens and observes before speaking is often the most 

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insightful person in the room.

When speaking to a client or a colleague LISTEN to their story take it in hear what their challenges are before telling them what you have to offer or how you can help. This will help you better understand them and how they think. It then allows you to directly address their needs and if they don't have challenges just educate them on what you have to offer. LISTEN to them. It may just give you a better understanding of them or even keep you from showing up for a meeting unprepared or late. No matter what, it will build a mutual respect with your peers. In most cases people aren't just talking to talk or typing to type - EVERYONE IS BUSY. Show your colleagues some respect and listen to what they are saying because they are busy, also.

And last but, not least when someone with more work and life experience then you is talking LISTEN this could be your boss, a colleague or even an older family member. Don't disregard them as being out of touch or have the attitude that it worked then, but not now. They have INSIGHT and UNDERSTANDING that will only be gained by LISTENING to them and learning from their experiences. Remember they just might have been there before - they may HELP you to not waste your time trying something they've already tried and failed at or they may just give you the stimulus needed to solve that frustrating challenge.

Here at Eureka! Ranch and the Innovation Engineering Institute we ask at the end of every client meeting, training and innovation session, "What did you Learn?" I've learned to observe by listening and I've gained knowledge that I didn't have before by listening.  I sit on the floor in crowded rooms in the back and I LISTEN.  I sit in on calls that I don't really need to be on and I LISTEN.  

Here are 5 Tools for becoming an active listener from MindTools:

  1. Pay Attention: Give the speaker your undivided attention, and acknowledge the message. Recognize that non-verbal communication also "speaks" loudly.
  2. Show that You're Listening: Use your won body language and gestures to convey your attention.
  3. Provide Feedback: Our personal filters, assumptions, judgments, and beliefs can distort what we hear. As a listener your role is to understand what is being said. This may require you to reflect on what is being said and ask questions.
  4. Defer Judgment: Interrupting is a waste of time. It frustrates the speaker and limits full understanding of the message.
  5. Respond Appropriately: Active listening is a model for respect and understanding. Your are gaining information and perspective. You add nothing by attacking the speaker or otherwise putting him or her down.