Are you listening, or waiting to interrupt?

Listening is a difficult skill, but it's worth putting in the practice.

In over 25 plus years working within service organisations I’ve come to the conclusion listening is an underrated, but really vital skill. I’m often left cold by what passes for good listening. What I frequently observe could be more accurately described as waiting to interrupt!  And I'm as guilty as the next person for being distracted, trying to multi task, or getting excited to share what's in my head. I've learned it takes daily practice and the ability to stay curious.

I was at a presentation for Investors in People years back where David Fairhurst, then, VP People at McDonalds gave his simple success formula for creating exceptional customer service.

It was:

L2 (C+E)+R

The translation?

Listen a lot to customers and employees and respond

Great isn’t it?

It’s about being INTERESTED, rather than INTERESTING! However, as with all simple concepts, they sometimes aren’t quite so easy to achieve and require a good deal of effort and commitment from the whole organisation and in particular from the person doing the listening and responding.

Machiavelli said if you’re talking your giving information and therefore giving power away; if you’re listening and asking questions you’re gaining information, the raw material of knowledge, and therefore gaining power and believes that questions are the currency of persuasion.

So, what’s the reason listening is such a difficult skill to acquire?

Well, we talk at a rate of around 125 words a minute, yet have the ability to listen at a rate of 400 words a minute. This often means we are way ahead of the person who is speaking and as a consequence can get distracted. Our minds can wander and we either end up thinking of something else; or the speakers words may trigger a connection in our brains to information we’d like to share. At this point we are in ‘waiting to interrupt’ mode, rather than really listening! It truly does take commitment, effort and a genuine interest if you want to be an effective listener.  

One Stephen Covey's 7 habits of highly effective people is Seek to understand, then to be understood. He identified 5 levels of listening, only the fifth level of empathetic listening is within the other person's frame of reference.

Truly listening to someone makes them feel important, or has Stephen R Covey puts it Someone started listening to me, and they seemed to savour my words. They didn’t agree or disagree they were just listening, and I felt as if they were seeing how I saw the world.

Geoff Burch’s book Resistance is Useless…the art of business persuasion he states, It’s not the gift of the gab you need, it’s the gift of the earhole.

And when you get it right you'll learn more than when you speak, you'll find out things about people that may surprise you and you'll make the person who's speaking feel important.

If you want to improve your listening skills, schedule a call with me to book the Listening or waiting to interrupt workshop for your team