Have you ever noticed that the other person in that interesting conversation you’re having isn’t actually listening to you?
Not the nicest feeling is it?
We can try to win their attention back by speaking faster or more loudly, dropping something controversial or even offensive into the mix, or simply to stop talking.
Whatever happens, the experience does little to advance the relationship between you, or assist the growth in knowledge or exchange of information that a good conversation encourages.
Now, it’s time to be honest....
Have you ever caught yourself zoning out of a conversation, or distracted by your own thoughts and missed what the other person was saying? Or worse, consciously denying them your full attention because you “know what to expect” from them or feel it’s a waste of time?
Not the nicest feeling for either of you, I'm guessing.
I worked with a leader who was frustrated with one of her people. He consistently “pestered” her when it was inconvenient and would even follow her between meetings talking incessantly. She dreaded this, so I suggested she actually try listening to him. To stop whatever she was doing and really listen.
At our next meeting she told me the problem had gone away. She’d heard him for the first time in ages. He’d expressed some valid issues, which she acknowledged, and then went back to his work. She felt great relief and had freed up her own time, and his, simply by giving him what he really needed: her full attention.
Over the next few days, make a point of really listening to everyone you have the good fortune to have a conversation with.
This doesn’t require any special technique. Just listen to their words, the tone of their voice, notice their expressions and their body language. If you’re worried this’ll make you look weird or feel awkward, forget that. It’s exactly how you listen to people you’re interested in, so you know how to do it.
The key is noticing when you’re listening to that dialogue in your own head rather than the other person. It will happen. Just let it go and return your attention to them.
See what you discover.