When my daughter, Shelley, was 4 her swimming teacher told us she would be a champion if she could only swim as fast as she can talk…. yes, that’s my Shelley- she talks A LOT and fast.. she is now nearly 8 and her speech abilities only ‘improved’ since..
I’ve recently read a blog post by Dave Kerpen- ‘What Inspires Me: My Children’ where he mentions the things he is inspired by and learn from his children that can also apply in the work environment.
This week, Shelley inspired me; she gave me a lesson in listening skills and a good reminder for practicing listening at home and at work.
After a day of work, I’ll often find myself thinking about work while Shelley is telling me a very long story about something they learned at school… This week was about an ancient aboriginal story. Rather than telling me the whole story (probably knowing I’m not really listening), she stopped half way through and asked ‘mummy, how do you think the story continues?’ Umm… she caught me! I had to apologise and ask her to tell the story again from the beginning. This time I listened and this time she told the whole story without stopping…
That was an important reminder for me, as being brutally honest, my mind wonders sometimes at work meetings as well when colleagues speak.
Being in the moment, not trying to multitask, truly listening to the person talking to you is in my opinion one of the most important skills of any leader and in fact any person.
“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.”— Ralph Nichols
Even when we are very engaged in a conversation, often another ‘listening challenge’ pops up- we wait to speak and think of what we are going to say next rather than listening attentively to the other person.
The best way to address those challenges is to practice active listening techniques which require paying attention, providing feedback, acknowledging and confirming understanding of the message.
Do you have people at work that talk a lot? Does your mind wonder while people talk? Or do you have the tendency to plan what you are going to say next?
Listening sounds like a simple, ‘no brainer’ skill, but doing it well is not that natural for everyone and it can easily be improved with awareness and practice.
God gave us two ears and one mouth so we should use them in that proportion!
by Ayala Domani