Listening in an office environment is rarely a challenge. It is easy to focus on a speaker when there are only two or three people in a room, when the speaker is at a lectern or at the head of the table, when the room is quiet except for the speaker and so on. Fortunately, I have had success listening while in the office.
One of the great personal challenges I have experienced is listening in social settings. I fall into the trap of eagerly talking and engaging in conversation rather than focusing on listening to others.
In my quest to improve my listening skills, I am re-reading Dr. Mark Goulston’s book, “Just Listen”. My goal is to identify and adopt five habits that will empower me to become a better listener. I mentioned in a prior post that one of the habits I aspire to form is the ability to make others “feel felt”. The next habit I chose to adopt is to “be more interested than interesting”. Rather than engaging in conversation, in social settings the goal is to be an interested listener.
Last Friday afternoon when completing my personal report card for the day, I wrote down the challenge to work on forming this habit. It happened that I had the occasion to try out my new skill/soon to be habit at a couple of social events over the weekend. I did end up listening far more attentively than I normally would at a social gathering.
By an odd coincidence, I ended up being an interested listener to the significant other of two people very close to my wife, one each at two different parties. Later when my wife and I were walking our dogs, I told her stories about these two people she had never heard before. She was quite surprised that I had heard stories she had not. It all came about because I focused on being interested rather than interesting.
My challenge is to use this start to make the breakthrough I have long sought to better listening in a social setting. Stephen Covey counseled “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” I thoroughly enjoyed Covey’s writings and have tried to adopt the “Seven Habits”. In spite of the wisdom of this lesson, which is obviously very similar to Goulston’s lesson, I never was able to put it into practice. Maybe now with the extra teaching and inspiration from Dr. Goulston I can both be interested and understand people a bit better. The journey to becoming a better listener continues.
Thanks for Listening,