Is Listening a Lost Art?

I’m pretty sure I could see the vein on his forehead actually start to swell as he tried his best to focus on what the customer was saying. Almost as if it would burst if he wasn’t able to speak soon, at the first pause by the customer the salesman jumped into the conversation.

I could only think to myself, “so that is what I probably look like when I’m more preoccupied by what I want to say next rather than what is being said to me.”

If this was obvious to me, a bystander who was merely looking on while shopping for electronics, I can’t imagine that the customer wasn’t blatantly aware of the salesman’s complete lack of interest in what the customer was asking for.

Sadly, I see this all of the time, and if I’m not careful I catch myself doing it. In a world full of so much to say, it can be so hard to really listen. But if you want to lead, you have to realize that you have to listen. For leadership is often founded in empathy.

It Starts When We’re Young, But When Do We Fix It?

When I was young, I can remember distinctly some of the conversations with my father. Where he would be talking to me about sports, school or really anything for that matter and I had this overwhelming urge to interject.

It was almost as if there was a chance that if I didn’t say what was on my mind immediately that the idea would be lost for ever.

Guess what? It wouldn’t be. In fact, it would be right there waiting for me to share at the appropriate time.

But nevertheless I always found a way to jump in at the first breath my father took and to this day I remember that it drove him crazy. He would immediately “Shush” me and say…

Do You Listen, or Are You Just Waiting to Talk?

Clearly it was the former for me, but what about you?

Have you ever caught yourself actively brainstorming about what you are going to say next? Carefully planning your eloquent response amidst a conversation that you are having. Ironically you are only comprehending a fraction of the messages being shared with you because your focus isn’t on the conversation, but rather on the response. Make Sense?

Whether a friend, customer or a loved one, waiting to talk is a common habit that is caused by perhaps many things but always comes across as an inflated self importance.

Overcoming The Urge

The great news about this little listening problem that so many of us have is that it can be solved easily just by focusing on listening.

Kind of profound right? Solving empathy with empathy…

It was hard for me to believe as a chronic multi-tasker. I have struggled with being a good enough listener because my mind tends to play chess. I’m constantly thinking about what is next or what else needs to be done. However, I have found without a doubt that when you want to move business and relationships forward, there may be nothing more compelling than being a great listener.

The act of focusing on what the person you are talking to is saying rather than what you want to say next allows you to connect and to truly gain understanding of the other person.

Seems so simple, yet I see it done badly far too often.

But this can be overcome. You just have to choose to stop waiting to talk and to start REALLY listening.

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Daniel Newman

Founder and President at Broadsuite, Inc.
After 12 years of running technology companies including a CEO appointment at the age of 28, I traded the corner office for a chance to drive the discussion on how the digital economy is going to forever change how business is done. I'm an MBA, adjunct business professor and 2x author of best-selling business books including "The Millennial CEO" and "The New Rules of Customer Engagement." Pianist, soccer fan, husband and father, not in that order. Oh and for work...I'm the Founder of Broadsuite, a specialty marketing firm that helps companies be found, seen and heard in a cluttered digital world.
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