Why you're probably a bad listener (and why this matters)

Have you ever had one of those meetings where you basically stayed alert every second so that you could jump in with your answer or comment to what someone else said? I mean, before another colleague was quicker than you.

Or -  while you’re having this conversation with a colleague or your spouse (or friend…) you’re so enthusiastic and impatient to bring across what you think that you just talk over the other person or interrupt– hey, after all this shows your engagement, right?


What it does show is that you’re not listening.

I used to do that. Both of the above.

Why (as I supposedly know it better now)?

Positioning...instead of listening

Because having those meetings in corporates (and also smaller enterprises – this behavior is definitely NOT reserved for big companies) felt like being a fish in a shark tank. If you’re not quick enough you’re going to be eaten.

In other words – if we don’t jump in and answer/comment, someone else might take away the glory and my “positioning” does not work anymore. Cause, let’s be honest – that’s what’s still happening in A LOT of organisations.

And in any other conversation where I interrupted, I did it, because, yes, I am an enthusiastic person. And there were times where the most important thing seemed to be to bring my point across, to “share my knowledge” (not really….it was more lecturing) or worst case, wanting to be right.

I even thought I was a good listener….until I realized….I wasn’t.

Do this if you want to become a REAL listener 

Do you do any of the above?

So, listening is not just about NOT answering e-mails in a meeting or NOT typing a Whatsapp on the mobile phone while talking with someone. Those definitely don’t agree with listening.

Why does that not work?

The easy explanation: our brain can’t handle two cognitive functions at once (which also busts the myth of multi-tasking, sorry guys).

Really listening – some call it deep listening is about... 

  1. Completely shutting up when someone is talking (yes, even it it means biting our tongue from time to time - taking a deep breath helps when the words want to spill out of our head and mouth...it might require some practice ;-))
  2. Focusing on what the other person is saying and hearing ALL of it WITHOUT formulating the answer in our head already. That requires focus - and not being distracted by our own thoughts...and an open mind. As what we hear might go against what we believe or think - again practice helps.

  3. Taking a moment to taking it in and only THEN coming back with an answer.

  4. Even better: asking a question or two in case you have not fully understood what the other person said – instead of assuming something based upon your experience, your feelings or your own story….you might be surprised what you hear.

The big question...HOW to implement it?

I know, I know…you might think who the heck can do that in a professional environment?

Well, we all can. If we decide that this is the right thing (and it is – just read on). Even if the implementation is ALWAYS trickier than the plain theory - but you know that already, right?

I’m not saying it’s super easy, it can be done though.

Start with 1:1 conversations. Just listen. You’ll be surprised what you learn when you’re not distracted by your own thoughts!

Besides that, the people who are listened to have the tendency to do the same for you. Unless they are real pricks and notorious narcissists.

If you want to take it a step further, suggest a listening exercise in your team for example for the next meeting. The simple rules…see above. Oh, and if you have someone in the team who overuses his/her time for speaking, set some limits beforehand.

Why listening matters. A lot.

In our crazy fast world REALLY listening to someone is probably one of the nicest, most compassionate and acknowledging things you can do. And not just in business.

As we all like to be listened to…and even more importantly -  to be heard.

Just alone giving someone the curtesy to do so, will shift the relationship into a completely different space. Guaranteed. And so worth it.

Leaders listen.

Because they know it does not only build relationships, but it shows their deep respect for people, their willingness to learn, and the humbleness to know that their job is to bring out the best and develop the full potential of the people following them. 

And deep, real listening is a crucial ingredient to be able to do so. 

PS: …and what to do when you don’t agree with what the other person is saying, I’m going to tell you in my next blog post.

PPS: If you don’t want to miss out on that – just join the club and you’ll get it right into your mailbox (there is a box on the right of the blog - or underneath, depending on which device you're reading this. Would love to have you with us.)





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