Andy is upstairs getting ready for work and listening to my daughter, who is downstairs talking, right next to me. She says “Can I do that Mom?…Can I do that Mom?…Mom, can I….” Andy yells down “Michelle, Eleanor is asking you a question.” I say “OH! Sorry honey! What?”
Nice, huh? And it wasn’t the first or last time this has happened. Now, Eleanor talks A LOT. One time she talked for 90 minutes straight, after a day of boating. The thing is, even with that excuse, I KNOW, deep inside, it is crucial that I listen to Eleanor. Having two Sons who are old enough to believe talking to Mom is not something they want to do on a regular basis, I need to seize all opportunities to listen to Eleanor. The rewards for listening to my daughter are endless!
Based on what my customers tell me, I am not alone in my desire to improve my listening skills. They want to stop interrupting co-workers to better understand the issues, because it would save them ‘so much time’. Many times they assume they know what others are going to say before they finish. Customers who are working on enhancing their leadership skills are trying to stop themselves from jumping in and solving the problem. They want to ask questions, listen, and allow their employees to think, so they can create a more innovative environment!
I believe, inside of all of us, is an exceptional listener. We just need to dismantle the barrier(s) keeping us from listening. SO…what are the barriers?
Based on what customers tell me, the most frequent reasons for not listening are:
- I have no patience.
- I am sooooo busy and am thinking about what I need to get done.
- I have heard what they are going to tell me a million times.
I totally get it, I can relate, and have decided to challenge myself. For me, all of these reason are symptoms. I know this because, when Rue Patel, the highly motivated Plant Manager of General Mills, is talking, I AM LISTENING. When my friend Kevin Sensenig (super smart) is talking, I AM LISTENING. It doesn’t matter how busy, tired, or hungry I am, I stop the thoughts in my brain and I LISTEN. So, what are the real causes of the barrier?
EGO. When I start judging, thinking I know more than the other person, I stop listening. When I feel guilty, jealous, or start blaming others, I stop listening! The EGO is a great fault finder. And why does my ego get in the way?
FEAR. For example, even though I can’t remember exactly what was going through my mind that day in the kitchen when I didn’t hear Eleanor, I do know my thoughts were based on an ongoing fear. The fear that I won’t meet my sales goals and won’t be successful, rules my thoughts almost every morning. Guess what! My sales numbers DO NOT define who I am! They do not define my worthiness.
When I let go of that fear, I REALLY listen to my customers, develop a spot-on solution, and coach them to find the success they want. Results that make me feel awesome inside and add to my feeling of worthiness.
This month, every time I start feeling scared, I am going to remind myself of the successes individuals and organizations have seen, as a result of working with Dale Carnegie. Then I will take a deep breath and LISTEN!
What fears are keeping you from listening?
Here is powerful story about one author’s perception of listening!