Listen Up

We never outgrow the need to have our feelings known.  When we meet people we need to remember that everyone likes to feel appreciated.  Whether the person is a white collar, blue collar or no collar worker, we are all so much more similar than we are different.  DNA has proven this.  I’ve heard that all humans are genetically 99% the same.  It’s the 1% difference that we tend to see and focus on.  Skin color, height, gender, hair or lack thereof…you know the drill.  I also recently heard that all life on earth is at least genetically 90% the same, whether you’re talking about a banana or a whale.  Well, I know some people that have much more in common with bananas than humans, but I digress.

Much of the conflict in our lives can be explained by one simple fact: people don’t really listen to each other.  We fool ourselves into thinking that we can do more than one thing at a time.  The truth is that we just end up doing one thing poorly after another.  We’ve gained unparalleled access to information and lost something very important.  We’ve lost the habit of concentrating our attention.  The simple art of listening isn’t so simple.

When we’re meeting and getting to know someone at a networking event (and by the way, everything is a networking event), in order to listen well, we must forget ourselves and submit to the other person’s need for attention.   Let them talk.  And don’t be worried about what you’re going to say next.  If you’re worrying about that, you’re not listening.  Many people worry that they’re never going to be able to get a word in.  Don’t worry about that, because until the other person has had their say, they won’t hear a thing that you’re about to say anyway. 

Regardless of how much we take it for granted, the importance of listening cannot be overestimated.  It’s only everything.  Remember this.  Actually, the less you say and the more you guide the conversation by the effective use of questions, the more the other person will consider you the most charming conversationalist in the world.  The gift of our attention and understanding makes other people feel validated and valued.  Our ability to listen, and listen well, creates goodwill that comes back to us.  And effective listening is also the best way to enjoy others, to learn from them, and to make them interesting to be with.  Listen up.

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