More than art, an act of love
People say listening is an art and that great entrepreneurs and inventors and teachers and athletes and lovers have it mastered. Notice I said ‘great’ not merely good.
I agree that those who achieve notable greatness in their professional pursuits must indeed have cultivated the ability to truly listen to others. After all, regardless of innate talent, an athlete who won’t listen to the advice of a coach simply will not rise to the level of a Michael Phelps or Simone Biles.
The same goes for making a difference in the world of business. An entrepreneur or other business professional who is present and listens when people speak has a distinct advantage over those who haven’t developed this critical skill.
Listening. It’s An Act of Love.
Almost everyone can stand to sharpen their listening skills in some way. Ask yourself these questions to identify the areas you may need to work on.
Do you sometimes (or often) zone out when team members, clients, or mentors speak to you?
Whether you meant to get distracted or not doesn’t matter. Zoning out sends a clear message that says, “You don’t matter. You’re boring. I don’t care.” Whether true or not, if the speaker perceives it as truth, it’s too late. And, no, you can’t “blame it on your ADD” like that song by Awolnation says. It’s up to you to fix this issue. Rule yourself.
Do you feel as if you’ve “heard it all” about the ins and outs of your industry and niche? Does it seem like no one could possibly share any insight that you would find novel and exciting?
Believing you’ve heard-it-all is just a nicer way of saying you know-it-all. This flawed self-awareness can cripple your ability to recognize another person’s fresh, new view of things in your business. Imagine this:
One of your more right-brained, bubbly team members walks in your office after a weekend business expo. Of course it’s Monday. Her excitement effervesces like a shaken bottle of Dom Perignon champagne, threatening to pop the cork and spill over onto your desk and then (gasp!) your Italian leather loafers.
She claims she had an epiphany, of sorts, while listening to some of the speakers and participating in the subsequent team discussions. You smile wanly and invite her to sit and tell you all about her new insights and creative solutions that could “quite possibly take the company to the tipping point”.
She excitedly describes each idea. Like a sniper, you (tactfully – sort of) shoot down each one before she has gotten to the gist of the concept. With each shot, she deflates a little more until, finally, she concedes that she really can’t offer anything original and new about the industry to someone with your experience.
The founder of your closest competitor happens to meet her at the monthly business networking mixer. He listens intently to her ideas and gets caught up in her excitement because he actually heard the brilliance of her insights. She quits you, goes to work for him. Now all the media channels are scrambling to interview her and the ideas she shared with her new boss that transformed the business. Oh, and the good listener CEO held a celebration for his team members complete with Dom Perignon and an impressive selection of cocktail foods.
Do you think of your response before the other person has finished speaking?
Sometimes these premature responders even interrupt the speaker mid-thought to interject their ‘wisdom’ on the matter. Ugh! Stop it. Just stop! This poor listening behavior makes the speaker feel degraded and cast aside. Imagine this:
You’re waiting in a long line to see your favorite band perform. You got there early so you could get good seats. Then, right in front of you, a group of four fans steps in line with a guy who looks like he can’t possibly be old enough to buy a beer at the stand inside the gate. This frustrates you. But you roll your eyes, sigh, and continue waiting as the line moves slowly forward. Finally, it’s your turn at the ticket booth.
The clerk shakes her mane of long auburn curls, saying that the group of five right in front of you just took the last seats under the pavilion. All that’s left are lawn seats. And you didn’t even bring a blanket to sit on! That’s how the speaker feels when you interrupt him.
People who enjoy great success in any area of life have honed powerful listening skills. They put away all distractions like cell phones and tablets. They validate the speaker by engaging in active listening. They make eye contact and they stay fully engaged, speaking little and listening a lot. When asking questions, it’s only to gain clarification into what the speaker says.
Listening truly is an act of love. You might like reading Listening Is An Act of Love by David Isay. It inspired this post and will likely inspire many others, at least in part.
Don’t forget…Every Day Is the Best Day!