I was recently in Chicago O’Hare Airport returning from a business trip when a couple of every day occurrences spawned the idea for this post.
I went to Starbucks in Terminal 3, somewhere near gate K3. I normally get a double-cupped venti bold coffee, but today I went for something different – a quad venti, extra hot, no-foam latte – again, double cupped. While it’s not the most complex order I’ve ever heard at Starbucks, it does take a second or two to spit it out.
The young man taking my order was very distracted with the two young women who were working with him behind the counter. I’m not sure he ever once looked at me while I was ordering. To his credit, he and the barista, did get the order correct – that wasn’t a problem. It did get me thinking and wonder how often I don’t give my 100% attention to someone I should be giving my 100% attention to.
After I got my coffee, I meandered down to a place to get a breakfast sandwich. They had 2-3 registers to take orders. A man, his two young children and his wife with a baby stroller were in front of me. He was busy placing the order for his family while his wife was talking on her cell phone. The woman behind the counter called “next”, which was me, but I could not get around the woman on her cell phone and her stroller. Her back was to me and she was very engaged in the conversation she was having while she took up the entire lane. It took literally 30-45 seconds before she realized that I was desperately trying t get around her and her stroller to place my order.
While this isn’t an exhaustive list, here are some simple observations I made at the airport on how to be a better listener:
- Look at the person you are talking to or is talking to you. It’s a simple thought and we’ve all heard it before, but it bears repeating. I read a story of a sales guy who was a little hard of hearing. His hearing difficulties forced him to focus and watch his customer speak… he was reading the lips while he was listening. At some point, the sales rep got a hearing aid and was so excited to hear better. When he went into one of his long time client’s the customer finally asked him to take his hearing aid out because he liked how focused and attentive he was without it.
- Be intentional. Get rid of distractions. Turn off your cell phone. Turn off the TV (at home). Do whatever you have to in order to be able to listen to whomever you engaged with.
- Be observant. Watch for non-verbal communication. You are sending just as much non-verbal communication as you are trying to pick up from your conversation partner. One study at UCLA indicated that up to 93 percent of communication effectiveness is determined by nonverbal cues. Another study indicated that the impact of a performance was determined 7 percent by the words used, 38 percent by voice quality, and 55 percent by the nonverbal communication.
- Minimize / Eliminate side bar conversations. This particularly applies to group meetings – large or small. Not only are sidebar discussions distracting, they are inconsiderate to the person speaking.
- Actively Listen. Along with looking at the person who is speaking, sit up, lean forward, engage your body and you’ll engage your mind and ability to listen better and remember more.
- Repeat important thoughts for confirmation. Don’t parrot the conversation, but rephrase and repeat thoughts to ensure you understand what is being said as well as to verbally show your conversation partner that you are hearing and understanding what they are saying. Clarify what you don’t understand. This is an excellent way to confirm communication, not just hearing.
- If you ask a question – listen to the answer. This is pretty self-explanatory. Nothing irritates me more than to answer someone’s question only to find they’ve checked out or don’t really care what the answer is.
What are you top couple of ideas on listening better? Leave a comment….