Posts Tagged ‘listening’

Listening–some trade secrets

Tuesday, January 5th, 2016

We are all great lovers, drivers and listeners aren’t we… or rather we like to think we are!  In case you have room to improve here are a few tips to help:-

  • Ask good questions:   Questions show you are interested, which encourages them to open up, it helps them focus and perhaps helps expose things they haven’t thought of
  • Use reflective listening:  This means repeating some of the meaning of what they are saying, not parroting their words, but a paraphrase that either shows that you have got it or shows you might have misunderstood, but that you are interested in really understanding
  • Positive body language:  They are more likely to feel that you are interested and genuinely engaged if your body language demonstrates this.  Look at them, don’t fiddle or do anything to suggest your attention is elsewhere.  Lean in, show appropriate reactions to their story.
  • Withhold Judgement:  You may or may not condone their actions, but you need to fully understand what has happened before you jump to judgement
  • Silence is golden:  If you aren’t asking questions or using reflective listening, then you should keep quiet, apart from little noises like “Arh ha” etc.  Nodding is good.

All of the above takes quite some effort, and if you are going to invest this wisely, then you need to ensure that your schedule is clear, and the place is appropriate.  Good listening builds strong relationships and is at the foundation of good communication.

Different conversations

Saturday, March 17th, 2012

I was reminded yesterday in my personal life of an approach I use often in my work one.  As my job requires me to instigate and support Change, I will often suggest that meetings be held away from the workplace, and wearing different clothes.  Breaking these moulds can enable and facilitate new and different ways to communicate and think.  In themselves they are small things, but they are also powerful anchors to our habitual ways of thinking, being and talking.

As my family members each find our own ways forward from my wife’s death, we are all trying to find our way and adapt our roles within the family grouping.  I recently broke the news to the family that I had met someone special enough that I wanted them to know about her and not surprisingly this ‘hand grenade’ caused all sorts of shockwaves.  How do you even begin to discuss something as radical as someone new entering our intimate family circle, especially after what happened?

At home, we, like most families fall into well trodden groves and habits and that can get in the way of this kind of conversation.  So it is with real pleasure that I found when I met my eldest in town for tea and a chat that we began communicating in a much more unfettered way and discussing allsorts of interesting topics.  I certainly don’t think that this issue has been resolved but by creating new patterns of talking and listening it is easier to explore these dangerous new ideas.

“A good quartet is like a good conversation among friends interacting to each other’s ideas.”   Stan Getz

“A pas de deux is a dialogue of love. How can there be conversation if one partner is dumb?”   Rudolf Nureyev

Someone to talk to

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

We have just had a wonderful week in Tuscany.  We hired a villa located half way up a mountain and there was all the peace and quiet you could wish for.  It seemed to make reflection unavoidable.  One of the things that I found tough was not having someone there to share and explore these ideas with.  That kind of conversation was always at the heart of our relationship and I don’t think anything has so brought home the reality of her passing as this sense of not having that person you totally trust to explore new ideas and feelings with.

I occurred to me once I got home that this is also something which is common amongst people who are running businesses and I know that many of my clients particularly value having someone independent who they can frankly explore ideas and issues with and it is this role as a sounding board that I particularly enjoy.

We all need someone to listen to us and it is a huge and valuable gift between people… have you made time to listen to someone today?

If you get your ears syringed does it make you a better listener?

Friday, June 5th, 2009

Apparently I have very narrow ear canals, and periodically they need attention.  When I find myself not hearing people consistently, that is my signal to toddle off and see the nurse.  When I come out it is as if a veil has been drawn back between me and the rest of the world.  However, does hearing better equate to being a better listener?  Whilst it certainly helps, it isn’t the same thing at all.

Listening is about giving your attention to the other person and what they are saying.  You listen with more than just your ears as you have to use your eyes too.  This both affects how they feel and gives you lot more data about them and how they are feeling.   You can also pick up information  at a more subliminal level about their energy.  Whilst you can learn to listen better I really think that an awful lot of this comes from who you are and what you care about.

Today would be a great day to give someone a really good listening to…

“I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”    Robert McCloskey

“To listen well, is as powerful a means of influence as to talk well, and is as essential to all true conversation”   Chinese Proverbs


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Knickers to you!

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

Fed-up with the violent and anti-feminist actions of fundamentalist Hindus, who consider themselves to be the self-appointed guardians of ‘true’ Indian culture and values,  29-year-old journalist called Nisha Susan decided to strike back.  Following an attack on a pub by 40 SRS  (Sri Ram Sena – the Lord Ram’s Army) members, who beat up every woman they could see, Nisha was seething mad.  What could one woman do in the face of this kind of aggression?

Being a thoroughly modern ‘Millie’, she set up a Facebook group called the Pub-going, Loose and Forward Women.  By next day it had 500 members, and today is has nearly 60,000 supporters.  The group’s aim was to encourage and support women to behave as they wished and not be repressed by these extremists. 

Then they came up with a bright idea. they encouraged all their followers to post a pair of pink knickers or chaddi to the SRS by way of protest!  Quite literally saying knickers to you!  Yesterday I discussed bricks as a form of communication, today it is knickers. I wonder what tomorrow will bring!

On a more serious note, getting your message across requires effort.  You have to get the other person’s attention before communication can take place.  If you have an important message to get over today, how are you going to make sure that they hear you?

“Years ago, I tried to top everybody, but I don’t anymore, I realized it was killing conversation. When you’re always trying for a topper you aren’t really listening. It ruins communication.”   Groucho Marx

“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. When we really listen to people there is an alternating current, and this recharges us so that we never get tired of each other. We are constantly being re-created.”   Brenda Ueland


Communication… but not as we know it Jim!

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

I had an interesting little lesson in communication today.  Romantically speaking, my daughter is having a somewhat turbulent time of it at present, .  My eagle-eyed spouse noticed that a)  A few days ago, she had removed the ring her chap had given her  and  b) yesterday it was back on her finger. 

Today we were chatting to a neighbour and friend of the family, who when my wife mentioned the ring, said “Yes, I noticed that too…”  Clearly this simple little act communicated volumes to these ladies but I suspect would have gone unnoticed by most trouser-wearing members of the species. 

It is a really interesting example of how our actions communicate our feelings and inner state.  Communication is so much more than what we say and all those silly bits of ‘corporate speak’.  If we open our eyes, if we really listen, it is amazing how much we can pick-up.  At the same time everything we do is communicating with those around us.  This is why it is such a minefield, as we often say one thing but do another.  In order to understand someone we have to ‘listen’ with much more than just our ears.

“It seemed rather incongruous that in a society of super sophisticated communication, we often suffer from a shortage of listeners.”   Erma Bombeck

“After all, when you come right down to it, how many people speak the same language even when they speak the same language?”   Russell Hoban


If at first you don’t succeed…

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

Today I was out with a friend looking for somewhere to eat.  We went to a local restaurant that we often go to, only to find that it was not only rather full, with people queuing and no bar staff, so we decided we wouldn’t wait.  I made a number of suggestions but we opted to just see what we could find.

The first pub we came to we had both eaten in before, it was ok, but nothing special and again was full of people having Xmas lunches.  We got back in the car.

The next one was completely new to us, it had “Est. 1650” painted on the wall, but was strangely modern inside.  Again it was busy.  The menu seemed ok, but smacked of being over written, and I suspected the reality would not live up to its promise.  Back in the car.

We arrived at a prize winning Asian restaurant… closed!  Brmp, brmp..

We headed homewards, past the first restaurant.  Next stop was a nice new fish and chip emporium which we wanted to try “Sorry we have stopped serving lunch sir”… and on to the Indian next door …Closed!

So at about 2.15 we went into a restaurant that used to be a fire station and had a wonderful spicy pizza… mmmm… just right!

I know it was all rather a palaver  but we did end up in the right place.  Sometimes one just has to say “NO” if it doesn’t feel right and try again.  It can be a bit trying at times, but allowing the Universe to take a hand and listening to one’s inner voice is a good way to surf the waves of Change

The Dangers of being an ‘Expert’

Monday, September 29th, 2008

I am very fond of nice coffee, and prepared to go out of my way to get a really good cup.  I have a reasonable machine at home but it isn’t ‘just right’ and I was prepared to spend quite a lot to get the perfect machine.  So I searched the net and found a place about 30 miles away that had the machine I wanted to try in stock and available for demonstrating.  I was impressed by the site and the emails I exchanged with them.  The clincher was the guy described himself as a “barista”, which is what you call the guys who make espresso.

So I arrived, eager to buy.  My opening comment was I have X machine now, but the coffee isn’t hot enough.  His opening line was “Well you won’t get a better coffee than X…”  Over the next 10 minutes he steadily, yet somehow politely, talked himself out of a sale, and even my wife, a raving cooking fan, left without so much as looking around at his shop full of ‘goodies’ so cross was she at his attitude.  It was a little bit like an eager young man turning up at a cat house and being told by the madame that he would have more fun on his own with a copy of playboy…

His mistake was that he made no effort to find out what we wanted or why we wanted it.  He didn’t establish who he was talking to or our level of expertise/knowledge.  He may or may not have known more about the subject than me but he never tried to establish that.

It is so easy for an expert to fail to recognise & respect his client’s expertise or alter his language and delivery appropriately.  A real expert does not need to show off his knowledge or make others feel stupid.  So if you are a consultant or expert, take care!

“Expert: Someone who brings confusion to simplicity”  Gregory Nunn

“If stock market experts were so expert, they would be buying stock, not selling advice.”  Norman R Augustine

Listen to the little ones

Monday, March 17th, 2008

We had a gathering of the clan this weekend and a good time was had by all (well mostly!) We were driving home with my three children in the back of the car chatting away about what they had seen and heard, and the things they had observed. It was a fascinating lesson. Admittedly, they are pretty grown up but none-the-less, the views and judgements of the junior team on some of the behaviours of the ‘seniors’ were fascinating. Obviously, I’m not going to recount the various details here, they would be meaningless, but for me there were a number of lessons that I thought worth sharing.

  • Just because you are not one of the management team / ‘grown ups’ doesn’t mean that:-
    1. You don’t have important, and possibly unique, insights & information
    2. You don’t have an opinion that should be considered
  • And just because you are of the management team / ‘grown ups’ doesn’t mean that:-
    1. You are (automatically) right
    2. You are being fair
  • Being asked to accept and understand a situation that affects you is one thing; not being considered or communicated with is quite another.
  • Just because you think you understand a situation, and believe that you have acted appropriately, does not mean that you have, especially if you don’t have all the information, and, guess what… we never have all the information!
  • I know there are people running businesses out there today who are making exactly these mistakes, not to mention a parent or too, so today I am sharing the wisdom of these remarkable youngsters to help us all avoid marching straight into a quicksand.

    “The first half of our lives is ruined by our parents, and the second half by our children.” Clarence Darrow

    “If you must hold yourself up to your children as an object lesson, hold yourself up as a warning and not as an example.” George Bernard Shaw