Of course we’re listening!
But not always to what others are saying to us. We’re very often listening to our own thoughts and just tuning in when a response is needed.
We’ve all experienced conversations, where we are talking and the other person nods or responds with an “uh huh” or “yup” occasionally (but not always in the right place) and their eyes are just not with us. It’s pretty deflating to be talking to someone who’s so wrapped up in their thoughts or whatever they are doing. Especially if it’s a meeting where you’re agreeing to do something or make changes and you leave half heartedly, knowing that what they agreed upon is unlikely to happen. Or worse, if you get on and do what you agreed, they will question it at a later date, claiming to know nothing about it.
I’m not talking about having a conversation with someone who is clearly not listening as they are checking their emails or texts or browsing a news site. Those situations are easy to spot and you know for a fact they’re not tuned in to what you’re saying. The ones that aren’t so clear as so much more of a frustration and challenge. When “the lights are one but there’s no one home”, or when you realise someone is physically present, but not taking in what’s being said, there is little point in continuing. So there goes a wasted conversation or meeting. And it doesn’t make you feel great, either. It shows little regard for you and demonstrates the fact that you and your opinions are not valued.
Or does it?
Have you ever been stressed? Too much to do, not enough time. Staff or colleagues asking constant questions. emails streaming in, meetings scheduled. No time to actually follow up with actions. Perhaps something is going wrong and you’ve got lots on your mind.
When all this is going on, are you good at listening to others? I mean really listening. Or does your mind wander off to attend to all the stressful and worrying stuff, meaning that you’re unable to hear anything that’s being said. You’re just willing them to go away so you can get on with all the other things on your long list. It’s not actually that you don’t respect them or don’t value their opinions, it’s just that you can’t focus on what they’re saying because you have other things on your mind.
You will probably agree that such a meeting is not going to be productive.
If you’re in this situation, the first thing to do is ask yourself if you’re going to be able to find a way of focusing on what’s being said. If this is impossible at that moment in time, don’t carry on with the meeting. This is not always possible, so ask yourself what is important at that moment in time. Realise the impact you have on someone if you’re not listening to them. If you’re very busy, agree to a set length of meeting, agree to a clear purpose or aim and make a commitment to being completely present for them for this set time. They deserve that much, surely? (You might find this article on sticking to the AIM useful).
By being clear about how long you’ve got and what exactly you will discuss, and by listening carefully, less time will be wasted and all parties will feel more valued and clearer about what they need to do.
See if you can be more aware about how well you listen to others notice the impact on your time and relationships when you are better tuned in.
If you’d like to know more about how working with a coach can increase self awareness or if you’re interested in training your staff to listen better, get in touch.