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The use of electronics has created unlimited opportunities for us to contact the people in our world. However, this interconnectedness has an extremely high cost. As I mentioned last week, our listening skills are getting weaker every year.

For the first time in our history, we have five generations in the workforce and most of them would rather text than talk.

In addition, the use of technology combined with the seemingly endless stream of work and family obligations have significantly reduced our attention span. As a result, when we do interact with someone face-to-face, we may act like we're listening but after a few seconds, many people start looking at their phone. That gesture issues a clear warning signal to everyone in sight that says..."I'm not listening."

"You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time."

~ M. Scott Peck ~

Just yesterday, I was in a meeting with a technical expert who was teaching me how to use a new software. At least four times during our 45-minute session he reached for his phone to check a text or an alert while I was telling him about my challenges and goals. One time he even picked up his iPhone in the middle of saying something to me. Each interruption lasted less than 5 seconds, but he never acknowledged the digital distraction. His behavior communicated his phone messages were more important than the conversation we were having. This individual was friendly, extremely knowledgeable, and he did help me learn what I needed to know. However, I never got the feeling he really cared about me or my business. As a result of my experience, I will use a different resource next time.

Listening is one of the greatest gifts we can give the individuals around us. There are not many moments that make people feel more valued than when they know someone cares enough to turn their phone off and really listen to them.

Fortunately, any leader, parent or friend who wants to improve their listening skills can get better. All it takes is some deliberate practice and the willingness to break some bad listening habits.

This week, I encourage you to review the following list of common listening problems and identify the negative habits that get in the way of your listening.

Select the ones that are a challenge for you:

  • Wanting to give advice too quickly

  • Being too busy; not having the time or energy to listen

  • Being preoccupied; thinking about someone or something else

  • Not being interested in the person or topic

  • Having negative thoughts about the other person

  • Interrupting someone who is speaking

  • Thinking you already know what the speaker is going to say

  • Being too opinionated

  • Wanting to be right or getting defensive

  • Changing the subject

  • Pretending to listen

  • Judging ideas too soon

Now, pick one and answer these questions:

  • Why do you want to change that negative habit? Think about how you and others will benefit if you eliminate or reduce that behavior.

  • What are you going to start doing and stop doing to make sure you solve that listening problem?

  • Who can you start listening longer to today?

"To say that a person feels listened to means a lot more than just their ideas get heard.

It's a sign of respect. It makes people feel valued."

~ Deborah Tannen ~

Next week I'll share some positive listening habits for you to review.


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