Vail Daily column: What did you say?
Have you ever found yourself so distracted during a conversation that you had to ask the other person, “What did you say?”
And maybe it’s not even the fact that you were distracted, maybe the other person was just talking too slow or too fast for you to comprehend what they had said, so again you ask, “What did you say?”
Or the discussion could just be very confusing or shocking and just so you make sure that you are abundantly clear on what was being said you ask the same question, “What did you say?”
THE NEED FOR CLARITY
Many people want clarity, and some not only want clarity, they need clarity. For these folks, things need to be very clear, black and white, no gray areas at all, no mystification. So they will certainly ask for someone to repeat themselves when they need more information.
Then there are others who would just rather not know. They are just not that interested so they may never ask for clarity. Or they are so absorbed in what they are planning on saying or how they can talk about themselves in some way that they could care less what the other person actually said.
OUT OF PRACTICE
As I spoke with some folks about writing this column, I asked for opinions on listening skills, the art of conversation, and basic human interactions. The opinions were almost unanimous, “People just don’t listen anymore.” Some shared their thoughts about the fact that texting and email have done away with the need for actually speaking with someone unless you absolutely must. Another opinion was that because technology plays such a huge role in our lives, we are just out of practice and that no one is actually intentionally avoiding a one-on-one or group discussion, we are all just out of practice.
One person I spoke with didn’t focus or point the finger of blame on texting and technology, instead they felt like we are all so busy, running a million miles an hour, and caught up in what we have to do that we have forgotten how to slow down and take the time to talk with others. Not talking “at” others, but talking “with” others. And when this happens, our personal agendas are so important to us that we just don’t listen anymore.
TIPS TO IMPROVE LISTENING
How are you doing at the whole listening thing? If you are struggling with it, let me give you a few things that I have used to help me become a better listener.
• Ask questions instead of making statements: The more you ask others about themselves and their jobs, hobbies or families the more interesting they will become. So instead of trying to jump in with your own stories, just replace what you wanted to say with another question
• Write things down: The more we write things down, the more people will talk. This is usually suggested in a business conversation like a sales call, team meeting or a job interview. However, in social settings when someone gives me a good idea or recommends something, I ask if it would be okay if I made a note to myself. The other person is generally gracious and feels a sense of pride that they can be of help
• Repeat a question or statement: If you are really struggling with listening this tip should help you the most. When you are engaged in a conversation, try repeating back what the other person had said or turn it into a question like, “Excuse me, but what I think I heard you say was that you are a respiratory therapist, is that correct?”
BEING AN INTENTIONAL LISTENER
The point of all three tips is that you become an intentional listener and not just a casual listener. This places the focus squarely on the other person and their interests and you will minimize and maybe even eliminate the need to ask, “What did you say?”
So again, how about you? Are you an intentional listener already? Do you have listening tips of your own? I would love to hear all about it at firstname.lastname@example.org and when we take the time to become a better listener, who knows we may just learn something along the way too. So listen up and let’s make this a better than good week.
Michael Norton is a strategic consultant, business and personal coach and motivational speaker. He writes a weekly motivational column for the Vail Daily.