Recently, I was in a computer store at a mall. I was there to check on the condition of the battery in a cell phone. I was met at the entrance by someone from the store, asking me if I had an appointment. When I said I did, he verified the electronic check in process and told me someone would be with me momentarily. I was led from place to place by people who had a great deal of technical competence and who kept asking for data which they entered into their electronic device. After a while, and after repeatedly looking at their electronic device, the person told me what was going to happen, how long it would take to do what they were prepared to do, and what it would cost me to do it. I agreed to the terms they outlined, and they walked away to do whatever they do when they go behind the doors to the work area. At the specified time, I returned, and we completed the transaction, after which I left.
I left the store, glad to have my phone working again, but aware I had been a very passive participant in the communication that had just taken place. My role in the process seemed limited to physically bringing my phone in, listening and responding to the questions directed to me and taking my phone away once it was over.
How many times have you seen people in a public setting, such as a restaurant, where everyone at the table was engaged in some activity that involved use of an electronic device. Those participating could have been playing a game, texting, emailing instant messaging with someone across the country or in the next room. Regardless, there was virtually no communication taking place among the people seated around the table.
Think about what happens in most of the communication you are involved with. How much do you share with those with whom you are communicating about what is going on in your life or theirs? Maybe you are someone who does not have much use for “small talk,” casual conversation without a particular agenda. Perhaps you simply don’t know or have forgotten how to do this.
Think of the last time you were acutely aware that someone had really been listening to you. What was going on in the conversation that took place? Would it surprise you to realize that “you” were probably the topic of that communication where you really felt listened to? Someone asks how you are doing and probes to hear more than just, ”Fine.” Has anyone ever asked you what your dreams are? Have they taken the time to really listen?
In real communication, we take our feelings, thoughts and intentions public and risk sharing them with another person, who filters our words through their own feelings, thoughts and intentions. It takes time and work to have that kind of communication with someone else. A simple exercise is to ask someone something and keep asking them until you have a sense you really understand what they have told you. Then ask them if you have heard what they were trying to say.
Why not try this with someone. See if you don’t enjoy listening almost as much as they enjoy being listened to.
–David C. Bloom,
CEO of IHS Services, Inc.
If you would like to receive new As We Move Forward posts, please subscribe to the As We Move Forward mailing list by clicking here. I release entries on a bi-weekly basis.