By Sunny Simon
Recently my friend Barb and I attended a very enjoyable breakfast brunch. Later we met up with our spouses and related stories the key note speaker told about his life. About half-way through Barb’s rendition of the speech, I realized we were both at the same meeting and yet, she heard more of the story than I. No, there is nothing wrong with my hearing. I knew exactly what happened. I lost focus.
I’ve always prided myself on being an attentive listener, but apparently I was not mindfully present. During the presenters time on stage my thoughts started to ping-pong around in my head. Shouldn’t listening to an interesting speaker be an easy singular task? Not so according to Marty Nemko, a coach who holds a PhD from the University of California, Berkley. Marty claims listening is much tougher than people think. I believe Marty, is right. Listening requires effort.
A friend of mine once stated “We are in the listening business. All day long we listen to others.” That’s true, our lives and jobs depend on listening, so perhaps sometimes we just get tired of all the words coming at us. Okay, but none of us can afford to get lazy about listening.
How can we improve this skill? For starters, we can either listen out of generosity or curiosity. The latter is the better choice and Barb proved it. She had more take-aways from the speech, because she was fully engaged. So if we listen with a curious ear, we benefit because we learn.
As a reminder, listening takes discipline. When I chose to attend the brunch I wanted to experience every part of the agenda. Don’t let yourself off the hook, discipline your mind to stay present in the moment. During the speech I allowed my mind to drift. Perhaps I was tired, or lulled into a mild stupor by the meal; however, the point is, I gave myself permission to stop listening. When you find your mind straying from the subject at hand, put yourself back in. Talk a deep breath and refocus.
Listening can be a meditative exercise helping to bring our focus back into the moment. Stated differently, it would have been relaxing to banish all the side bar thoughts going on in my head and just take in what was being said.
The best advice on listening is evidenced by a quote from radio host Larry King, “I remind myself every morning. Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.” Sunny Simon is the owner of Raise the Bar High Life and Career Coaching. More about Sunny at www.raisethebarhigh.com