Listening Skills Need Exercise

Listening skills


“Listen” is the anagram of “silent.”

Only when we're able to quiet what is going on in our head we can truly listen. It's not intuitive, but listening is a large part of communication: in conversation and in writing, unless we're open to the information and (even) ready to change our mind, nothing happens. No action. "Just talk."

Listening helps us be less wrong.

It's part of our feedback loop, a mechanism to stay grounded in reality. Understanding how reality works and how to deal with it should be on every job description (instead, we talk about multitasking, which decreases our ability to listen and reflect).

Sure, we can mess up a project, or be off in an estimate. 

But if we're surgeons, structural engineers, or pilots getting things wrong has immediate consequences. Barry Ritholz says, it could be okay to be wrong depending on what you got wrong, by how much, and the impact of your error.

But is staying wrong excusable, or even an option? 

There's one situation when we listen in rapt attention and don't need to take notes—when we're in danger.

When the captain on a flight talks about an emergency landing, we're all ears and adrenaline. Our mind in such circumstances goes into hyper-attention and we do question… we're very fast at putting information with action (even when we panic).

But it's temporary. We could use more practice to build a strong listening muscle.

If you want to exercise your listening skills, you can use five techniques based on the work of William Isaacs:

  1. think slow,
  2. look to disprove,
  3. mind the gap,
  4. notice resistance, and
  5. stand still. 


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