Engage Your Listening Skills

It happens to me often…

listening-skills-001I fail to understand what you are saying, and unless I qualify your statements then I never grasp your comments.

That’s on me.

It may be your fault that you do not speak louder, or take the cotton out of your mouth, or even pronounce your words properly…but it’s my fault if I do not work harder at comprehending what you have to say.

As we prepare to fly home, I went to the front desk at the hotel to share again that they have a water pipe busted and are increasing their water bill by allowing it to wash away all the dirt from the parking lot (snicker…). “Yes. We have a large group here.” was his reply.

What? What does a large group staying at the hotel have anything to do with the broken water line at the sidewalk? Nothing. His listening skills were not engaged.

As a customer service rep you would think that one of his first and most important jobs would be to listen to the customer. Right? Sure. Along with the million other duties required! Distraction and too many duties at the wrong time helps to create the vacuum that exists when you should be listening closely.

We find ourselves often in similar situations. We open our mouth and engage in communication without opening our ears to hear. I often think that our two ears are not as important as our one mouth.

Multitasking is often the issue. Overly tasked to accomplish much, the one thing that goes out the window would be our listening skills. Even with that, we are often guilty of thinking more about how we will reply than attempting to understand what is being said.

You remember that old adage of every carpenter? “Measure twice, cut ones.” Maybe we should adapt that to our listening skills. “Listen with both ears, speak only when appropriate.”

“I must remind myself every morning: Nothing I say will teach me anything. So, if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.” ~Larry King

Maybe the better way of thinking it through is to learn how to practice “active listening”. Listen with the attitude that I must learn from what is being said.  Words. Language. Culture. Nuances. Inflections. And probably a huge list of other concepts are required in order to understand what is being said. 

Speaking and hearing, both need some guidelines to make it easy to say, as well as to hear.

Also, try to interpret the hidden message. Don’t read into what you hear with what’s not being communicated, but words help us to understand the feelings of the speaker. Many struggle with saying what they truly mean. “Are you saying….” helps you ask for clarification. Restating what you heard is another good way for grasping the total message. 

Somewhere along the way we all need to learn the acronym “TMI” – Too Much Information. Say only what’s needed to be understood by the hearer! Not every fact you know needs to be recited!

And quit repeating the same information in the same paragraph!

Just saying…. I hope you listen really well at church, as well as to your kids, spouse, friends, family, and that stranger on the other side of the counter.

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