Previously, my colleague, Matt Amore, wrote on the impact of listening to environment and client on design. Listening is one of those things we all know to be essential to daily life.  Yet, how often do we really do it? And when we do, are we any good at it? And how does it impact our relationships with colleagues, clients, family and friends?

There is a science and art to listening. The science of listening is pretty straight forward, so today I want to focus on the art of listening.    Ask yourself when was the last time you listened to someone – clearly, with intent and without agenda. Not as simple as it seems.  Many factors impact our ability to truly listen:

Time constraints – when someone says “do you have a minute?” – do you really?  Are you able to really listen or will you just go through the motions due to time issues? Many times this type of “listening” results in misunderstood information / intent, wasted effort and frustration.  Being ready to listen not only is productive, but also sends a real message to the other person that you are receptive to what they have to say and leaves the other person with a sense of satisfaction of being heard – of being valued.

Intent – When you “listen” are you actually silently arguing or constructing your response for the exact moment they stop for air? Are you “listening to learn” or “listening to prove”? Next time take note of any agendas, assumptions or biases you may have – leave the baggage at the door – and listen – then formulate your response.

Filters – Receptive listening is difficult as often we have intentional or unintentional filters through which we listen.  Usually one has different filters with different people. At times trust plays a role in how thick and dulling those filters are.  Familiarity may also lend itself to a preconceived notion (filter) of what someone is going to say.  Do you stop listening at a certain point and just assume you know what direction the person is going?

Recently I came across Dr. Mark Goulston, who has authored the book “Just Listen”.  Take a look at this video in which he shares a special meeting he had regarding listening.  Mark suggests that the best way to develop good listeners is to give them a taste of being listened to.  Ready to listen?  Enjoy!

Let me know how it works for you.  I am eager to learn of any new thoughts on listening.

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