Today I’ve been delivering training with one of my professional service clients and one of the necessary skills we talked about was listening. I shared the different levels of listening and how, in our busy lives, often the best level we use is ‘attentive’ where we’re listening in order to respond. As an introvert, I imagine you know how it goes; someone leaping in with their questions before you’ve finished speaking and then not really listening to your next answer or not giving you time to answer. Sometimes, people may even finish your sentence so that they get airtime and ‘move things along’.
I’ve noticed how many introverts are listening ninjas, so this particular blog post may be more for your colleagues, your boss or even your partner and family. If that’s the case, then feel free to share. And if you’re not quite at ninja status yet, then take note of the rest of this post.
Now I understand that in today’s fast paced world, allowing enough space for people to speak and be heard can feel like a luxury. But, I’m here to tell you that far from a luxury, it’s an essential! Many of us know that and yet, behaviour stays the same as habits are hard to change.
Let’s put this into context. How much misunderstanding and misguided action starts when people don’t listen and check understanding? How much bad feeling and resentment results from not listening effectively? How much disengagement and withdrawal happens as a consequence of people not being actively and empathically listened to? How much valuable and creative contribution do we miss out on as people decide not to speak up? So far from delivering benefits by saving time, it is actually very costly to both organisations and relationships alike.
So, I urge you to slow down to listen. If the subject (or the individual) matter to you, listen right to the end of what someone is saying. Don’t tune out half-way through because you assume you know what is coming next or you’ve already got your response lined up. Try it. If the experience of my group today is anything to go by you probably won’t find it easy but the benefits will far outweigh the degree of difficulty.
And like any new habit, it becomes easier and you become more competent with practice.