Listening - The Forgotten Skill
Posted by Mr. Howard Bufe, AVP, Credit Union Resources, Inc on 6/16/2017

I believe we can all agree, that in today’s turbo speed lifestyles with high-tech, high-speed, and high-stress, communication is more critical than ever, yet we seem to devote less and less time to really listening to one another.  With overbooked calendars, multiple electronic devices (smartphones, tablets, computers etc.)  genuine listening has become a rare gift or talent – a gift of time to those with whom we interact.  In the back of our minds we all realize and know that listening is a critical activity in our professional and personal interactions.  It helps build relationships, ensures understanding, solves problem, resolves conflicts and it improves accuracy. 

At work, effective listening often means fewer errors and less wasted time.  Yet, we don’t LISTEN!  We are too busy thinking of our response versus truly understanding what’s being said.  We’re distracted by our mobile devices.  We are thinking about the next thing I need to do, the next place I need to be and the list can go on and on.  I’m reminded of a sign that hung in the vault at the first financial institution I worked for almost 35 years ago.  It read, “Why is there never enough time to do it right the first time, but there is always time to do it over”. 

That problem strikes a chord with all of us.  We don’t have time to listen to others, yet we expect others to hang on our every word.  If I can only talk faster, louder, non-stop, then my ideas win out over yours.  We all think different, process information different and communicate different.  Ours isn’t necessarily the right way, it’s a way, but it may not be the best in all situations.

You can find hundreds of books, thousands of articles and a million opinions on how to LISTEN.  Just a personal observation, but it seems to me, in today’s world we don’t seem to be short on opinions, although it seems we have no tolerance for other people’s thoughts and ideas.  But, that’s another rabbit chase for another time.  So, let’s utilize the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle on this topic and see if it makes sense. 

Maybe, just maybe, it boils down to one thing, RESPECT.  Respecting the other participants in the conversation, truly listen to them and make a conscious effort to understand their thought process.  Be in the moment with the conversation.  Don’t be scanning the environment around you.  Don’t be thinking about something else.  Don’t be formulating your ultimate response.  Listen!!  Listen without jumping to conclusions.  Remember that the speaker is using language to represent the thoughts and feelings inside their brain.  You don’t have the privilege of knowing what those thoughts and feelings are and the only way you’ll find out is by listening.  Don’t be a sentence-grabber.  Allow the other person to complete their thoughts or you may get a response such as, “Do you want to have this conversation by yourself, or "do you want to hear what I have to say?”  Interrupting or completing someone’s sentences sends a variety of messages:

  • “I’m more important than you are.”

  • “What I have to say is more interesting, accurate or relevant.”

  • “I don’t really care what you think.”

  • “I don’t have time for your opinion.”

  • “This isn’t a conversation, it’s a contest and I’m going to win”

Let me know how that works out for you.  Probably not very well.  We all think and speak at different rates.  If you are a quick thinker and an agile talker, the burden will be on you to relax your pace for a slower, more thoughtful communicator or a person that has more of a challenge expressing themselves.

It’s my humble opinion (there’s that word again) that with a little effort and a bucket load of RESPECT, we can be great listeners and effective communicators.

Categories: Education & Training, Human Resources, Strategic Planning & Consulting, Succession Planning
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