One of the biggest challenges facing many companies and people today is our tendency to talk more than we listen. Ultimately, if two of us want to truly have a meaningful dialogue, exchange ideas, and build an enduring relationship, both of us need to listen intently to what each other is saying. And, yet, most of us are hardwired to “tell our own story,” dominate the conversation, and make sure we’re heard – all without a lot of listening.
What triggers our need to “be heard”? A major reason is the overwhelming number of tweets, TV sound bites, radio debates, and talking heads who interrupt and scream at each other, so we feel the need to talk louder and longer to “get our 2 cents in.” We’re starved for time, so we throw their opinions at each other to win the argument without fully listening. There is no more powerful way to show respect for someone than to ask their opinion and then genuinely listen, which is true for any personal or business relationship.
Therefore, when I coach my clients on how to improve their communication, I encourage them to constantly remind themselves to WAIT, asking themselves “Why am I talking?” Make sure you know exactly why you’re talking in the moment and make sure you’re giving the other person enough ‘breathing room’ to state their point-of-view.
When I talk about ‘listening’, I’m not talking about the “lick-and-a-promise” listening most of us do. I’m talking about absolute listening where you’re absorbed in what the other person is saying. When you do this, you’re not fragmented or half-hearted, you are totally or completely engaged in the talker, and you take in the words, the body language, the tonality, and the entire “context” of the person speaking. In other words, the person speaking feels your full commitment to understanding them. They feel respected….and ‘heard’, which will benefit both of you.
So, WAIT and listen.
Lloyd Fritzmeier is a leadership coach and strategic advisor with The Starfish Partnership. Contact him at (404) 551-2964 or firstname.lastname@example.org.