You’re Still Not Listening!

I still have a long way to go with my listening skills and not interrupting.

The first thing I said the morning after I made my “I’m not going to interrupt anymore” declaration, was an interruption. Mat was trying to tell me something and I butted in. Topic, point, reason? Dunno. But I sure felt like an arse having blurted in in the first few minutes of the morning. Talk about a bad habit!

I have been trying to practice better listening skills, but I really find it hard to stay focused. There is always so much going on, so many interruptions, people needing attention, that I find there are a wide range of reasons/excuses for not listening well, and therefore jumping in a inappropriate times. But mostly, it’s just a habit, and lack of focus.

I was reading an article in Harvard Business Review: What Makes a Leader? by Daniel Goleman. To summarise, he says that Emotional Intelligence (EI) is an important (nay, essential) part of leadership capabilities. The main categories of EI are:

  • Self-awareness – knowing one’s strengths, weaknesses, drives, values, and impact on others
  • Self-regulation – controlling or redirecting disruptive impulses or moods
  • Motivation – relishing achievemnt for its own sake
  • Empathy – understanding other people’s emotional makeup
  • Social Skill – building rapport with others to move them in desired directions

The article suggests that we can strengthen our EI factors with persistence, practice, and feedback from colleagues and coaches. Listening skills fall under empathy, and I guess that isn’t my strongest point.

When I did several of the quizzes at Authentic Happiness my top EI skills were Forgiveness and Mercy, Love of Learning, and Curiosity and Interest in the World. Although Empathy isn’t specifically mentioned in this quiz, Social Intelligence (“You are aware of the motives and feelings of other people. You know what to do to fit in to different social situations, and you know what to do to put others at ease.”) is, and in my ranking, it falls at #21 of 24 EI skills. I last took this quiz in August 2010. It might be interesting to see if these results would be different now.

(If you visit the Authentic Happiness site, you may also find The Happiness Project site well worth a visit, too.)

The HBR article gave an example of an executive who wanted to become a better listener. She had a coach role play situations where she exhibited bad listening skills, and had to practice the situation using better interactions. Likewise, she would get a tap or other signal when she interrupted, and finally, she observed and imitated good listeners. This was a perfect example for me, and I think I am going to have to enlist the help of a few colleagues to get me through this learning curve.

So, I am going to enlist the help of a friend and colleague and try to improve my listening skills at work. Hopefully, my next update will be a more positive one!

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