“I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.” - Ernest Hemingway
To start with, I am being audacious enough to ask you to do more than just read my blog post, although I am thankful that you have at least read this far and hopefully will stick with me until the very end.
What I am asking you to do is to let the end of my post be the beginning of a new journey for you.
In fact, I am going to make this a short post, shift the task tension to you and simply suggest, if you follow my lead, and add your own egg to the cake mix, it could be a mighty, wonder filled journey of discovery.
How many times have we heard about the power of listening? I am not asking how many times people have said it, I am asking how many times have you not only listened, but done something about it? You know, not just let it go in one ear and out the other.
Listening is more than clearing your ears with Q-tips. Listening is an art.
So, here’s what I want you to do.
Stop what you are doing. Take out a sheet of paper and SWOT yourself on listening.
That’s right! Print your first name on the top of the paper (go ahead, humor me) and make it possessive (Tom’s). Follow your name with Listening SWOT (Tom’s Listening SWOT).
Take three deep breaths. Find a quiet place. Free your mind of everything that’s on your plate.
I am asking you to stop doing everything you are doing and put all of your focus and concentration on this short (I promise) exercise.
Next, list three Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats that apply to you under the heading of Listening. That’s right, the challenge is three of each. No more, no less.
Strengths and Weaknesses are self explanatory. Opportunities are things you haven’t done, but if you did, they could have a positive affect for you and those around you when it comes to listening. And, Threats are things beyond your control, but in this case negatively affect your ability to really listen.
Now, with this information at your fingertips for reference, write your first name on another sheet of paper in the possessive and follow it with Listening Action Plan.
List three Objectives that will make you a better listener, then as many strategies as it will take to help you accomplish your objectives. Then add a timeline that incorporates your strategies and an end date for you to have accomplished your objectives. In this case, I wouldn’t make it longer than a month. So, in my case, it would be Tom’s 30 Day Listening Action Plan.
Next add resources that you think might help you accomplish your objectives. Maybe it is more Q-tips! Or maybe it’s a book o video on listening or if nothing else comes to mind, challenge Google to search listening for you.
Seek our the people in your organization or friendship circle who are good relaters, caring, empathetic, trustworthy and are designated good listeners. Spend some time with them. Ask good open end questions about how they do what they do. And, by all means listen, probe, clarify and take notes.
Be prepared for these designated listeners to have an “aw shucks” attitude, because they usually come equipped with a great deal of humility. Treat them gently and, you’ve got it, listen up!
My next suggestion is to choose someone to be your mentor. Share your Listening SWOT and Listening Action Plan with them. Let them not only support you, but to allow them to nudge you of your timeline and end date. They should be allowed by you to hold you accountable every step of the way.
Your mentor should also lead a wrap up session to facilitate how you did, what you could have done differently and to discuss next steps.
Now that you are on your way to becoming a better listener, don’t just expect a line to form at your door with folks begging you to lend them your ears. That takes time.
In the meantime, you should learn how to be proactive and actively look for people and signs that suggest someone is in need of a good listener. Don’t worry, the signs are there. Just look. You’ll see.
“So when you are listening to somebody, completely, attentively, then you are listening not only to the words, but also to the feeling of what is being conveyed, to the whole of it, not part of it.” - Jiddu Krishnamurti
This is purely my take, but I am asking you to listen.
That’s it. I am asking you to listen.
What I mean is, listen. Don’t fix it. Just listen.
As leaders, we think we were put here on this planet to fix it, no matter what it is.
People who need your ears and undivided attention don’t necessarily want or expect a fix. They may not even want advice or an solution at all.
Here’s my quick list of what they may want or need. It will probably match with what you want or need when you seek out someone to listen.
One, get rid of all barriers to listening, whether it’s a to do list, mobile phone, desk or titles.
Two, find a quiet, safe place that’s well off the beaten path. This could be inside or outside.
Three, create a trusting environment. Don’t rush. Make it a comfort zone. Let the person you are with know that whatever they want to say will be kept between the two of you. Let them know you have all the time in the world for them … and mean it.
Four, when things are shared, don’t interrupt with your take, opinions or quick fix. Repeat what you hear. Ask for clarification. Ask if you have heard it right. Ask, is there more, until there isn’t. Ask, ask, ask.
Five, body language is a powerful tool that doesn’t require a mouth.
Six, the sound of silence is also an amazing tool.
Seven, never discount the other person’s feelings, even if you don’t feel the same way. Respect that they do.
Eight, thank who you are listening to for sharing. Let that person know that you understand how they feel.
Nine, end with, “Thanks for sharing. I am here whenever you need a good listener.”
Ten, add to my list of things you learn and keep on learning and practicing to lead with your ears.
That’s it. You don’t have to fix it. You just did … simply by using the power of listening.
I will end with a thank you.
Thank you for for stopping, looking and listening … not to me, but to everyone you commit to listening to from this day fourth.
Just sit back, relax and listen, learn and lead … with your ears, heart and soul. Too many times our mouth just gets in the way!
PS – One of my best friends and member of our team just stopped by while I was writing this, shared something with me, I nodded and he went on his way.
My confession is that I didn’t hear a word he said. So, I am heading straight to his office to confess my sin, share the irony of it, ask for forgiveness and ask that he repeat what he said. I promise, I will be all ears!
PSS – Share your ideas on listening with me. And, if you ever need someone to listen … reach out to me. I may not be always be the as good a listener as I aspire to be, but I am learning and trying!
><(("> Tom Laughon
Tom is affectionately known as BIG ><(("> at Catch Your Limit
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