WHEN YOU TALK
Written By: Randy Smith
We have all heard comments similar to that with the intent to reply.” from Rachel Cook; “It is hard to listen while you are talking.”
What does it mean to really listen to others? My wife has figured out that if I am not looking at her and/or my eyes are glazed over, I will not hear a word she says. I totally relate to the meme: “My wife just stopped and said, ‘You weren’t even listening, were you?’ I thought to myself... ‘That’s a pretty strange way to start off a conversation.’"
Listening is more than just being there when someone is talking. As a talker, we also must be aware that the listeners are still there. I once had a boss that liked to talk a lot. When he started speaking, he would close his eyes and go on and on. Just to test to see if he really saw me, I once stepped out of his office and stood around the corner where I could still hear him speaking, but he couldn’t see me. He went on for about ten minutes before he realized no one was in his office. It became so bad that I would only approach him with questions or information when he was on his way to the restroom, which meant he was in too much of a hurry to carry on a long conversation. One of his other employees even made leather ear covers that he labeled the “B.S. Protectors,” which he donned anytime this manager was nearby. This was a case of talking but never learning to listen.
The practice of listening, for me, is a never-ending process of trying to get better. Unless I force myself to focus, my mind easily wanders to other ideas, and I miss important points in the conversation. Stephen R. Covey stated, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
I remember practicing in school to listen and ask questions to make sure I correctly understood what I had heard. I have appreciated what was taught and have tried to put this into practice, but I have a long way to go.
As Director of Information Technology for Med One, it is important that I, and my team, understand user problems fully so we can find the correct solution or opportunity. I used to have a cartoon by my desk that showed a room full of programmers with the project manager at the door telling the programmers to start programming the software while he went to the users to see what they wanted. It is important that my team gets it right so we can assist those that work with the customers to be more effective. One challenge I have given the I.T. staff is to find time to visit with the different departments in Med One and see what they do day-to-day, so they have a better understanding of the user’s challenges and how they can more effectively help support our customers by supporting our Med One employees.
In preparing for this article, I have come across a number of memorable quotes dealing with listening.
SOME OF THESE ARE:
I especially like the following quote:
One of the biggest mistakes I have seen managers make is to visit a different, very successful facility or department and begin telling them all the things they should do better. The correct approach would be to listen and learn what has made them successful; then, if there are things that could still improve, it would be approached based on an understanding of what has made them successful so far. This becomes even more of an issue when dealing with other cultures than your own.
I once worked with a newly appointed manager that had new responsibilities for manufacturing facilities at other locations. In his excitement, the new manager visited the most successful but recently purchased facility. Instead of taking a step back and listening to the employees, he immediately jumped in and began telling them all of the things they should do differently because that is how it is done at the location he came from. It didn’t take long for the employees to contact the CEO and ask that this new manager never visit their facility again. If he had listened to them, they would have been a lot more willing to work on additional improvements.
As one who needs to work on my listening skills, I am taking to heart the need to pay better attention to those around me and really listen and talk less.
It is hard to listen while you are talking.