We’re being deluged with so much information we’re having to listen more carefully – and that means making sure our audiences are paying attention, too.
The art of listening
Newspapers, magazines, emails, internet, television, radio… in our everyday lives we are being inundated with information as never before. Sometimes it seems overwhelming but I, for one, am glad to be given the opportunity to receive so much information.
The volume just means we have to listen more selectively, to hear what we want above the noise.
Recently I was with a group of highly intelligent people listening to a speaker. I was watching how the participants were listening. It might sound odd but, yes, you can watch how people listen.
People listen actively or passively, with an open or closed mind. You can see it in their body language, their facial expressions and the way they look at you or whoever is speaking.
Working with the Japanese was very challenging in this respect, because they make an art form of keeping their feelings closed in negotiations or other business discussions.
I often left meetings, particularly when I first started working with the Japanese, very frustrated and uncertain about the real response to what I was saying. And I was often surprised about the reactions I did receive.
Australians are a lot more open, so during a sales pitch or negotiations we can often see the response we are getting and change tack if we need to.
Sometimes we get so absorbed in what we are saying we forget to watch for the signals that show interest or lack of it. So we need to stop and ask a question to ensure we have our listeners with us.
If we are doing the listening, of course we can use the listening signals to our advantage: feign boredom even if we are interested, for example. In other words, we can manipulate our response to give ourselves a negotiating advantage!
Whether we are the speakers or the listeners, it is vital to pay close attention; a lapse of concentration could mean missing an underlying and even unspoken opportunity.
I have generally found that I need to get myself right “into the present” for important meetings, discussions, presentations, and I generally take notes to prompt my memory.
Going back to that starting point about tuning in to information of value, the key is to learn who is worth listening to, who is worth reading and that probably means we need to ask questions, tune in and be clear about our goals.
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