Why is Listening Difficult?
Ever drift off to a random thought mid-meeting, only to come back wondering what the hell the other person is talking about? Or worse, they’ve asked you a question and you have no idea what they’ve just asked? “Oh sorry, I got distracted, I wasn’t listening”. Yeah, not the best look.
The thing is no one is ever listening. Ever. When someone starts talking, the mind has a million avenues it can go. “Have I sent that email?”… ”That project document deadline is tomorrow and I’m behind”… “Oh, look! A notification – I should check that – it might be important.”… “Wow my Zoom background is terrible, maybe I should get a plant.” “Is now a good time to adopt a pet?”
The list goes on…
Whether we’re in-person or virtual, it’s hard to be fully present and listen to another person. Even when we’re trying our best. Listening truly is a skill, a discipline to be practiced. Like learning a new language or an instrument.
So, how do you do it? How do you know if you’re actually listening? Try this: See if you can capture the essence of what the other person has said with a quick playback.
Colleague: “This project has taken forever. We’ve had so many blockers and lengthy negotiations with legal and policy. So much back and forth. It’s been really, really challenging. I’m so glad to see it launch at the end of the month”
You: “It sounds like this has been a tough project but the end is in sight.”
The other person will either confirm, modify, or correct you. Whatever the reaction, you can be confident that you’re making the other person feel heard. It also challenges your own assumptions of a situation, helping you gain a little more clarity.
Better understanding, building empathy, and deepening the relationship. Not bad for a quick playback.
Still unsure if you’re listening or not? Check out our other blog post, the 5 Signs You Don’t Know How To Listen.