The beginning of every year brings with it hope, renewal, and a sense of satisfaction at achieving our goals last year.
Now it’s time to set our sights on 2014. Have you set resolutions? Or have you set goals?
I always find that the commitment to resolutions fades fairly fast. In fact, by the end of February, I struggle to maintain discipline. This year it’s different, and there are many reasons why.
First and foremost, I am working for myself. I always knew that “no one would take care of me but me”. But when you are signing the checks, there is no backstop, no patience, no “let’s wait and see”. It’s all about NOW.
So even though I am a Communication Skills Trainer, Coach and Consultant, I am committed to being an even better communicator in 2014. And for me, that starts with Listening Skills.
Many years ago when I started teaching Effective Verbal Communication Skills workshops, I had to face my own weakness as a Listener. You see, I was a secret interrupter. At least is was a secret to me! I didn’t do it intentionally, and I didn’t even realize I was doing it. But I was!
I discovered that I was interrupting others on conference calls. I thought the speaker was pausing (mistakenly), I had something absolutely fabulous to add to the conversation regarding my experience, or I wanted to “add my two cents worth” as we say where I come from, which means to add my opinion.
I was jumping in at the wrong time because the speaker hadn’t actually finished speaking. This was made even more complicated by the number of people on the line and the quality of the call.
Whoops! How to overcome?
This was a challenge, because shouldn’t a communications skills trainer be a perfect communicator??
The answer is ‘No’. Not perfect, but I should be very good at it. So once I realized what I was doing, I made a pact with myself to stop interrupting others.
For the next few months, I dialed into the conference calls and said very little. Mostly because I was physically biting my tongue! I wanted to change my behavior, and that required consistently monitoring myself.
On the one hand, I wanted to contribute to the calls, but on the other hand, I knew that I had to refine my skills at identifying the right moment to step into the conversation. And in the “waiting” time, I taught myself to truly listen to what was being said.
Because when I did that, I learned to really hear what was being said. And I could take a moment to really think about the message the speaker was trying to communicate. I could apply my knowledge and experience to the situation (silently mind you). And when it was REALLY my turn to speak, I could respond in an appropriate way that added value to the discussion.
Are you a great listener? Or do you judge what is being said, start thinking about a solution to the problem (before the problem is even fully explained), or even rehearse what you want to add after the speaker is finished speaking? Or are you a secret interrupter, just like me?
My advice: Take a look in the mirror and ask yourself if you are a good listener, or if you could be a better listener. (I’m guessing you might choose the latter.) Then ask yourself WHY you aren’t a good listener. Then take steps to remedy this block on your listening skills. Awareness is the first step in improving; an action plan is the second step.
You’ve got a whole year to work on it, so get started now. Because if you do, your listening skills can be your secret weapon.
P.S. Are you a good listener or do you need to work on your listening skills? Being a great listener can be your secret weapon if you develop your skills intentionally. If you need help assessing where you are going wrong in your listening skills, or what the solution might be, drop me a note at Tracie@QACommunication.com.
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