As a mother of a two year old I’m constantly trying to communicate with my son in a way that won’t tarnish our relationship down the road. You know what I mean – I’m careful to avoid negative connotations such as shy or klutzy so that he doesn’t grow up thinking that he really is shy or klutzy. Johann Wofgang von Goethe (a German writer) said it well, “If you treat an individual as he is, he will remain as he is. If you treat an individual as he could be, he will become the person he could be.”
I’m not sure when I started to really pay attention to my choice of words (perhaps while studying public relations at Kent State University?), but when I did, I found myself saying less and hearing more. And then I started to listen.
According to Seth Horowitz, an auditory neuroscientist at Brown University, “Hearing…is easy. …Listening is a skill that we’re in danger of losing in a world of digital distraction and information overload” (The New York Times, Sunday Review, “The Science and Art of Listening). Just like any skill, listening requires a conscious effort.
Think about it… When is the last time you had a face-to-face meeting without people checking their phones for the latest text, email, or Facebook post? (We noticed ourselves doing this during our own True team meetings and quickly put the kibosh on it!)
Paul Axtell, a personal effectiveness trainer and author of “Ten Powerful Things to Say to Your Kids” says, “listening without adding to or changing the conversation is what is important. Reassuring someone isn’t listening. Trying to solve the problem isn’t listening. Just listening is listening. And when people feel you are interested and paying attention, they actually speak about things that matter to them.”
I’ve decided to make a concerted effort to really respect and listen to my son. If I don’t do that for him he’ll certainly not do that for others and that’s not the person I want him to be. Fortunately, kids give you many opportunities to listen (and if you don’t they’ll call you on it), but clients might not.
Listening takes practice.
Are you hearing or are you listening?