This past weekend I’ve been reading The Zen of Listening by Rebecca Shafir, part of my ongoing efforts to be better at many things and also part of research for an upcoming project. The book was a good starting point for me, with some ideas on the different types of listening and how mindfulness and listening are related.
I’d like to think I’m a reasonably ok listener (I scored 17 on the quiz in the book, in the ok to good range), but I’m also prone to three listening failures (probably more, but three is a start!):
- Talking too much
- Getting distracted (especially in slow moving meetings)
- Offering advice
All of those are hard. Not all conversations should be evenly balanced, sometimes you’re sharing knowledge or ideas, and sometimes it’s just enthusiasm for a topic that carries me. I need to remember to think about what the balance should be and adjust accordingly. Not being distracted – extra hard – the book mentions that we think faster than people talk, so in that mental idle time we tend to wander. Taking notes/minutes for my own use has been the best helper for me in group settings and I need to make sure I do that consistently. Offering advice, where to start? I think I want to make sure I’m sticking to coaching or ‘look out for that pothole’ messages. I’ve learned to avoid advice on emotional issues, that is usually just listening time.
I’m looking for other resources on good listening in a business context. Web, book, video, if you’ve found something that helped you be a better listener I hope you’ll post a comment (or contact me via email/LinkedIn/Twitter) and if you have time, also a bit about how you came to find that resource and how much difference is made in improving your listening skills.