Real Listening

Real Listening

It has been a really interesting day today in that I have experienced about one third of the incoming communication and the rest I have had to infer or make up. Let me explain.

My first experience was a positive and productive meeting with a client who’s first language is not English and his command of spoken English is far from his ability to listen and understand. Add in a busy cafe with lots of ambient noise and you can imagine how hard it was initially to get the gist of the conversation.

The second was a conference call with a client who was on a speakerphone that had a mind of its own and would clip every third and fourth word when the client spoke. Add to this conversation that I was outside with background wind noise and you’ll understand that this wasn’t exactly a flow either.

So my average number of words clearly heard from every three or four spoken, was one. A single word which I patiently had to weave into the next one that came a second or two later.

In isolation, and as I experienced at the start of both conversations, this is way below a reasonable amount of words to allow the listener to understand what’s going on and especially in a business conversation where words are long and often technical. But I found as I listened, that as I eased into the flow of the words I could hear, that soon I was able to connect with the flow and after a few minutes really dial into the intention of the speakers.

This idea of intention and flow is at the heart of really good listening. I am not claiming the highest levels of ability in the subject but it did really make me think about how the human brain processes information and in fact how little information we really need to make good judgment and take meaning from what we experience.

So the lessons for me today are to remember to use only words that matter and try to avoid all the waffle that we inevitably add into our monologues and the second lesson is to listen openly to everyone to ensure I get into their flow and intention. By doing so I will be demonstrating to them that I really am interested and that I really do care.