Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?
How attentive are you? Would you be able to hear the crunch of Santa’s heavy black boots in the snow? Would you be able to hear reindeer bells ringing in the distance?
In the busy world that we live in, everyone thinks that they have excellence listening skills. We have two ears, and living surrounded by the hustle and bustle of life, it is impossible not hear what is happening around us.
But how many times have we made mouthed an order at someone, or silently refused a cup of tea whilst talking on the phone to someone else? How many times have we asked a question, and looked at our screen responding to an email whilst listening to the answer? And how many times do we realize we’ve lost half a conversation as we have been busy dreaming of supper or creating a to-do list to start after a conversation has ended?
Clean and accurate listening is not as easy as it sounds.
Recently, I attended a training session that looked at listening skills. The trainer had no presentation, notes, or resources before her. We were expected to look directly at the trainer for most of the session.
I had not considered until then the ease of which other things drew my attention. I never use my mobile phone if I don’t need it, I’m not keen on taking notes using my laptop, and I always aim to sit near the front of any training session I’m attending, therefore I believed that I had pretty good listening skills.
The first few minutes were painful. I did not know where to look, what to write on my piece of paper, or what the coach was going to say next. There were no slides to help me, to draw my attention, or to focus.I had to listen.
After the session I was tired having had to focus intensively for such a long period of time, but the session made me think, is listening really this difficult? If so, I definitely needed to refine my listening skills.
Two important lessons that I learned from the session were:
- I must make sure that I’m ready to listen.
This rule sounds simple, but if I do not have time to listen to the person who is trying to talk to me, I must tell them. We discussed how not being heard or being aware that the other person was not really listening makes me feel, and I realized that I would also be able to have this negative effect on others. That is a much worse outcome than being honest and devoting five minutes at the end of a day to listen well.
- Make sure there’s nothing around you that can draw your attention during the conversation.
This means we clear those things that are visual around us, eg phones, e-mails, a pile of paper sheets on the desk that needs our attention, but also those things that can not be seen such as our thoughts. If we are not in the right frame of mind, it is not possible for us to give a fair play to the person who is speaking or to us as listeners,and we could be losing very important information.
So, as we spend time with our families over Christmas, try it out, and listen with the only intention of finding out more about the person you are talking to. Not to be able to respond. Not to be able to share your own story. And definitely not to try and complete another four tasks at the same time.
Who knows, if you listen closely enough you may hear Santa’s bells ringing after all!