I have someone close to me who never seems to hear anything I say to them the first time. Ninety-five percent of the time I initiate a conversation, they will respond with a “huh”. This has happened so often that I now just mumble something to get the “huh” before I actually start with my conversation. I recently had to inform this person-“you’re not a good listener“.
Most people feel they are good listeners. I’ve been working on a search for an executive leader position with my firm and in the top five attributes candidates gave me as part of their success was listening. Ironically, most of them would interrupt me while I was explaining something or they would ask me a question I had actually answered earlier in the meeting.
“God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason!” quote often said to me by my second grade teacher Sister Colleen.
Listening effectively is a key to success at any level of an organization. This is not an attribute you need to learn once you get to the C-Suite, rather, it should be something you begin practicing in your first job.
How to tell if you’re not a good listener:
- Your first instinct is to talk. There’s nothing wrong with being talkative but you need to know when to talk and when to listen. I find many professionals feel the need to constantly be in selling mode. They sell their successes, their pedigree, their education, blah blah blah. If you find your first instinct to fill a silent space is to talk, you might want to reconsider yourself a good listener.
- Your ego drives the bus. I can deal with many types of people in the office but those who feel the need to constantly stroke their own ego or have their ego stroked drive me crazy. They tend to tout themselves as being the most connected person on the team and “know things” about the inner workings of the organization. The truth is that they suck as a listener and rarely know anything more than what their ego allows them to perceive. Good listeners have no need for an ego because their primary goal is to seek to understand before trying to be understood. If that is not your goal, then you’re not a good listener!
- You multitask while others are talking. Ok, I admit it-I’m bad at this one. Multitasking has become the epic sign of success and productivity in the workplace at the expense of true relationships and true productivity. If someone is trying to communicate to you, take the time to actually listen to them. Sure, some of us can actually listen and complete a task at the same time, but what you are telling the other person is that their conversation does not matter as much as your task. If you place more value on looking busy or completing a task, you’re not a good listener.
These are just my top three. I could go on for hours about other signs you’re not a good listener but let’s focus on these top three to start.
If you find yourself committing one of the three offenses above, stop yourself and start listening!
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