How often have you been in a conversation with someone and they’ve asked you a question, only for them to ask the same question a few moments later? Or, you’ve been asked a question and as you’re responding, the person speaks over the top of you, or looks over their shoulder at someone who’s just walked in the room, or looks at their watch? How did you feel? And what about your listening skills, how often have you been introduced to someone and within seconds you’ve forgotten their name and you spend the rest of the conversation trying to remember it, rather than listening to what they said?
Connecting on a deep level with another human being is on the psychological level in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and listening is key to this. However, listening skills are becoming a dying art, watered down by the internal noise of our mental to do list or our insatiable need to be heard, make an impact or be relevant in the conversation. Certainly in business, building strong relationships is a common factor to a successful, fulfilling career — with our colleagues, leadership team, clients or suppliers. Let alone in our personal like, with our friends, family and partners. So in theory we should be exceptional listeners. So why aren’t we?
I would answer by saying we’ve forgotten how to be present in the moment. We now live in a world of chronic multi tasking. We’re talking on the phone, whilst reading articles/emails, or we’re in a conversation but we’re judging the person we’re talking to…are we interested in the topic, do we agree with what they’re saying, do we value their opinion, are they from a similar background to us, are we likeminded? How does that effect the quality of our listening? No wonder our retention of a conversation is only between 25–50 percent. We’re spending so much time in our thoughts, we’re never present to the person in front of us and the conversation that’s actually happening right now.
Deep, authentic relationships can only be built when two people are fully present. I was listening to a podcast recently on The Source of Mastery where Dr Michael Jervais was being interviewed by Rich Roll and he said, “You’re having thoughts, I’m having thoughts and we’re having a conversation. And the better this conversation goes is a direct correlation to the amount of thoughts that are NOT present.” Our thinking can often get in the way of building an authentic connection with another person.
With less attachment to what’s on our mind, we can achieve more. Greater connections, deeper understanding, better outcomes.
So how are you listening?