In business and our personal lives, as we might use a wrench to tighten or loosen some object, listening can either strengthen or open up communications for any situation.
Chapter 4, Communication Toolkit for Introverts is titled, Your Hard Working Wrench: Tighten or Open Up Your Listening.
NOTE: this blog post uses a variation of the chapter title, Introverts Tighten or Open Up Your Listening Like a Hard Working Wrench, although it is original new content, just for my blog. The book content is unique.
How do we get to be good listeners?
The same way the often-told joke tells us how to get to Carnegie Hall.
The joke is, one day two violinists who played at Carnegie Hall in Manhattan, New York, were leaving from the backstage entrance. Two tourists approached them, and seeing the violin case they asked, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” One of the violinists answered, “Practice.”
It’s often been said that introverts are better listeners. There is no found research pointing to this being the situation. What is true, and research in sales backs it up, is introverts, by their introspective nature, tend to listen more. It’s what we do with that “more” that can make us a better listener.
Although in business communication circles, listening is regularly at the top of the list as a top skill that employers desire in employees. But it’s not something that comes naturally.
What gets in the way of our listening
In the book chapter there is a personal assessment to discover the top ten areas of listening. You’ll find out what is strong and needs improvement in your use of this skill.
Often when I facilitate a workshop in sales or customer service, there is a section about listening. People find it fun because there are just five questions to answer, and if it looks like we have time, there is a bonus question for people to earn extra points.
Reading even one question likely will not have the same affect, but allows a point to be made.
Just a few people answer this quiz question correctly. Here it is for you: Just for a moment, pretend you are the driver of a school bus. At the first stop eight children get on. At the next stop, three children get on and two get off. At the next stop, five children get on. And, and the next stop 2 children get on and three children get off. How old is the bus driver?
Ok smarty! If you said what your age was, you “heard” it correctly.
This question points out to several issues that affect our listening, if indeed you got it wrong. Regardless of a right or wrong answer, we often listen for details when in fact, they were not the relevant point. Sometimes we listen assumptively, “Oh I have this answer!” Other times when we listen we don’t listen right from the beginning but instead pick up somewhere in the middle.
There are various pitfalls to listening, and of course, as many ways out of the quagmire of results poor listening gets us into, when we practice better listening habits.
How to power up listening
In my opinion, introverts are in a quite natural position to take on listening improvement more comfortably. With enjoying being in our head, and not so quick to speak in conversation, we can turn this more time listening into being a better listener.
One way we can use this to our advantage, in particular once we know which one of the ten habits of listening might need some tuning up, is to listen to our self first.
Let’s say you are in a meeting and the person speaking at the time reminds you of someone in your life you have a poor relationship with. You don’t really care for this person you know. You start to tune out the current speaker because of this.
Tune quickly into yourself. Ask, “How can I tune in to this speaker better?” Because you now have distracted the distraction, you can get back to listening.
The key in powering up our listening is that anyone, the more introverted or the more extroverted, can listen better once they know what is getting in their way. Until then, we just go along with the same kind of misunderstandings and frustrations.
Use listening to get your voice heard
As we get better at listening, we get better with our relationships. We are better able to focus on conversations and improve our understanding of what someone is saying. Any problem that might be in the way of an issue gets cleared up more quickly.
One of the biggest benefits of being a better listener is that our voice gets heard. Because we get to be known as someone who listens, we build people’s trust in us and at the same time, they feel better about themselves.
In listening more, we listen better and we build confidence in ourselves.
Now what introvert, or extrovert for that matter, wouldn’t mind a self-confidence boost?
I really want to know, what do you think of your own listening habits?