There are many skills which can be learned to assist us in our daily strive towards ‘success’
A very powerful skill is the art of listening effectively. This means actively listening. Not hearing in order to respond, but paying attention so that you can understand. Often times when someone is telling us something we just hear it. If we were asked to respond and actively show understanding on some level it doesn’t always articulate the best. This is because listening effectively is a honed skill. Most of us are never taught it, and only after much trial and error do we discover it. That is if at all.
When someone tells us a story they don’t give us the coffee black. What I am saying is they add filler. Instead of saying, “Big smile, happy, dinner, promotion.” There is a lot more than the summary going on. Here’s what I mean.
John entered the room light as a feather. He high fived Joe with vigor 4 times in a manner reminiscent of Russell Brand. Joe kind of brushed it off as John’s usual quirkiness. John looked around excitedly, turning his head every which way 5 or 6 times. It appeared as if he was about to spill like a bag of skittles on a black quarts countertop. His cheeks were flushed roseate; he was dressed sharply. As john approached me he took a huge breath. “Mike, you are not going to believe what just happened! I was on my way to work and wasn’t feeling too hot. Spilled my cinnamon spiced pumpkin latte. Then I got a call from my boss and I thought oh sweet strawberry rhubarb pie this can’t be good.” John sped up his pace. “I had just got into a fight with Suzy this morning over who was going to tell the kids we couldn’t go to Santa Cruz, and Sarah just wouldn’t stop, she was barking since 4:40 am, this morning was a hellish ride on one of those Gravitron things,” John took a breath finally. “Oh right my boss called and he said, “John I’d like you and Suzy to come out to dinner at Jaconin’s with Henry, our wives, and I tonight. Don’t be late this is a big deal.” He shot up again, “I forgot he also mentioned he wanted me to bring you! Wear that gray suit you’re always looking for an excuse to look like Zac Efron in.”
I kind of sunk blue in my skin. Looking at John with a fake smile. Clearly he was exuberant. I didn’t want to kill his vibe. I told him, “that’s great.” I continued after a brief pause, “I don’t know if I can make it tonight though. I’m going to be busy here at work all day and I’ve got to go out to the suburbs and drop off that old bed. Then I was thinking of having a night to myself.”
John replied, “Hey how about me and you drop that thing off on the way. I’ll have Suzy drop the kids off at Mark and Roxanne’s. Then we can meet up with her in the parking lot and all go in together. I laughed and said, “That works for me man. Tonight should turn out just fine.” “He just didn’t get it,” I said to myself.
A lot just happened here. The question is how well did YOU actively listen. Without going back tell me how many people were named in those passages. How many colors were used? What kind of animal was mentioned? What’s going on with John? Who was the narrator? What doesn’t John get? What if I had told you before hand this was a test. Would you look for what isn’t there more closely? It’s obvious in this passage that John isn’t reading the signs his friend is sending. He is listening to respond. Not to understand.
This exercise aimed to do two things. Raise awareness about listening for what isn’t there or what isn’t being said, and additionally to teach active listening.
Remember I said we don’t want to hear in order to respond. We want to listen so we can understand. This builds a better relationship with whomever we are communicating and can lead to much better results. It also avoids potential pitfalls.
At this point in the passage we know John and Mike are going to dinner with John’s boss and whoever Henry is. It appears Mike isn’t as excited even though it would seem like something he should be happy about. We can’t be sure what is going on in Mike’s life, but it seems that there is more to this ‘old’ bed than what meets the eye. It’s also glaring that everyone going to dinner will be with a significant other except for Mike. Mike doesn’t seem thrilled, but tries his best to keep appearances for John’s sake. Mike is a good friend and listens to understand John. There appears to be tension around John not understanding his situation. Potentially this could cause an issue in whatever the ‘big deal’ at dinner is about.
So go ahead and try this out. Find someone who says they are a good listener. Let’s see how well they’ve honed the skill. Tell them you are going to read them a passage. Ask them to listen. Then when you finish tell them if they can answer the questions you’ll give them ten dollars. If they knew about the money before hand how much better would they have actively listened?
I’d be surprised if they could nail all the questions I proposed earlier. Remember that listening actively is a honed skill. You can improve it! Additionally you want to train your mind to move quickly and effectively communicate that you’ve listened. This is something we can work on in another post.
Enjoy your day! Remember you are awesome. and there is no reason you can’t become even greater. Don’t be a dinosaur*
*Mentally. Physically you can go ahead and be a dinosaur because they are the coolest kids.