Listening is Not Enough

By Lindy Earl

          I attended a seminar recently, which is a unique thing for me to do.  As a Speaker and Trainer, I don’t often attend seminars except from the front of the room.  But it happened so I decided to embrace the time.

          At one of the workshops we were split into small groups.  Not my style but okay.  The small groups were then asked what we enjoy doing.  Even though the question was individual, we were supposed to create a list for the group.  This is one of the reasons I don’t participate in seminars like this.  I find when you try so hard to get the feeling of an overall group, you end up losing individual responses, and vice versa.

But in the spirit of the exercise, we answered: Some said dancing.  Others said crafts.  I said learning.  When I answered, the response of our 30-year-old leader was, “Oh. Old school.”

Now, how would you feel if you answered a question honestly to receive that kind of response?  Then, she didn’t include the answer. When asked for our list, my answer was omitted.  How would you feel about being ignored?

My point here is, it’s not enough to listen (per the title). You need to hear what is being said.  One of the members of our group said that they enjoy learning. The leader’s job was to listen, hear the responses, and report on what was said.

By doing the job well, the leader could have made the members of the group feel valued.  In fact, the leader made this member feel ignored, thus unimportant.

Also, non-verbal responses need to be considered.  If you, as an employer or leader or volunteer, ask a question and then argue with or negate the response, or squinch your eyes and stick out your tongue (yes, I have seen this done!), there is a problem.  Not just a challenge, but a problem.  These responses are creating trouble.  How the troubles are handled – possibly ignored, possibly creating a blow-up, possibly causing murmurs and conversations after the fact – depend on the group, the maturity of people, and a myriad of factors.

It’s also important to keep in mind, what is the point of the question? Are you trying to get people involved and chatting? If so, my team leader did just the opposite with her snarky comment of, “Oh. Old school.” Are you trying to sell something, maybe future seminar attendance, to these people?  Wow did she miss the mark on that one!

It’s not enough to listen, you need to ACT.  Yes, all caps, as though I’m yelling.  After listening, Take Action!  Move.  Do something.  Standing still is the beginning of stagnation.  I’m not saying run wild, and yes, you should have a plan, but hearing somebody say something, and not responding, is not useful. 

Be useful!  Respond verbally, even it’s with a word like, “acknowledged” or “heard” (my 21-year old’s current response).  Then, decide how to proceed. 

If the best option is to do nothing, and it sometimes is, that’s okay!  But you still need to communicate your decision to do nothing.  So even when doing nothing, communication is needed. Otherwise people may believe you’ve forgotten or ignored them.  Not good.  

Listening is good.  Hearing is better.  Taking action to affirm the speaker and move forward is better yet.

 Lindy is a Speaker, Consultant, and Business Author, currently living in Atlanta, GA, and available to answer your questions anywhere in the world.  She is The Business Coach to companies with 50 – 100 employees, Entrepreneurs, and Start-ups.  Focusing on Communication, Leadership, and Corporate Culture, you will be more successful with Lindy as your in-house Consultant.