This week I was in a meeting with 11 other attendees and I did the unimaginable. I interrupted the speaker in the middle of their speech. Thirty seconds later, I could have crawled under the table and been perfectly happy to stay there the rest of the meeting. You see, I fell off the wagon…
I have for years considered myself to be a recovering ‘interrupter’. I used to do it more often, say 10 years ago. I mostly had trouble during those annoying conference calls where you think someone has stopped speaking so you start. But in reality, they haven’t stopped talking – they were just taking a breath. I’m guessing most of you have experienced something similar.
But those weren’t the only occasions I interrupted. Sometimes it was inadvertent, and other times I wanted to jump in with my point – which is rude if I’m honest with myself.
How to stop interrupting others?
So I came up with a ‘recovery’ plan: On conference calls, I would literally sit at my desk in my office and bite the front of my tongue so that I wouldn’t speak. It worked most of the time, and I considered myself fairly cured of my interrupting habit.
Yes, I slip occasionally. Sometimes I catch myself: A sound has come out of my mouth already, but I stop there and try to focus once again on listening. And THAT is the real issue, isn’t it? Listening to what the other person is saying.
Most of us aren’t perfect listeners. (If you are, congratulations! Please share how you do it in the comments below – seriously.)
Why do we stop listening?
Some of you might be interrupters like me. Some of you may be daydreamers. Daydreamers think about something totally different from the topic being discussed in the meeting. (Because frankly, thinking about an upcoming holiday is far more interesting – sound familiar??)
Others ‘rehearse’ – I hear this often from my audit clients during my Interviewing Skills workshops. Auditors have certain questions they must ask, and they’re so focused on making sure they don’t forget the next question that they actually stop listening to their business counterpart. This is a dangerous listening block for an auditor because you can actually miss key points or evidence that is needed to achieve the right audit result.
Why should you listen carefully?
Here are three quick reasons to listen to your business counterparts:
- It’s a sign of respect. Someone is sharing their thoughts, opinions and results of their work with you. Give them your full attention, even if it is just long enough to ask them to come back later.
- You may learn something that will help you move forward in your work or your life.
- It’s an opportunity to learn what your business counterpart wants and needs. And once you know that, you can propose a solution, product or service that will fill their want and help you build your business.
What are YOUR listening blocks?
Have a look at these examples and choose the block, or blocks, that are most applicable to you. Then sit back and think of how you can overcome this block(s).
Common Listening Blocks: Which are yours and how will you overcome them?
- Filtering: Listening for particular information and ignoring the rest.
- Judging: Jumping to conclusions based on your own opinions and experience.
- Solving: Thinking about solutions before your business counterpart has stopped speaking.
- Appeasing: Politely agreeing so you can move the conversation forward more quickly.
- Rehearsing: Determining what to ask next while the interviewee is speaking.
- Daydreaming: Letting your mind wander to other (more interesting) topics.
- Interrupting: Interjecting before the other person is finished speaking.
Good luck in your self-assessment of your listening blocks. Get in touch if you would like some advice!
Wishing you every success with your listening skills.