I never realised I had a problem until I read “How To Win Friends And Influence People” (If you’ve not read it, do it now). I’d always thought of my self as a good listener; I hate interrupting others, am genuinely interested in what people have to say, and naturally end up steering a conversation to be more about them than about myself.
As we grow up we’re told that’s all we need. But that’s wrong. It misses one key element that makes or breaks all the others.
Hold that thought for a second while we talk about success…
We’ve all got different ideas of what success is. Mine generally involves helicopters, drones, a large kitted out kitchen, some writing, training, snowboarding, and of course money. Your’s probably looks different (if it doesn’t, LETS JUST BE FRIENDS), and that’s totally fine.
But while our idea’s of success might be different, there’s one key thing that we’ll both need to achieve our own version of it: communication.
I know right now you don’t believe me, but no matter what way you look at it, it’s true.
You can be the smartest person in the world, have 10, 100, or even 1000 times the intelligence of Bill Gates, Einstein, and Stephen Hawking put together, but if you can’t show someone that you understand their problems, worries, aims and goals and can solve them all, then why would they trust you?
Hell if you lack any ability to communicate, be that verbal or otherwise, you’ll actually end up looking like the worst person for the job.
This isn’t just based in the professional world either. Relationships, friendships, and parenting are the exact same, too.
Communication is the foundation upon which we build our sucsess.
As I said I never realised I had a problem. I thought I was doing a good job. But after reading this book I noticed that I was biasing what others were saying with my own life experiences.
While their entire sentence was being processed by my brain, 10-30% of the way through their response I had already decided what I was going to say next, regardless of what followed after.
I wasn’t really listening. I just used the start of their sentence to see what ballpark they were in and I assumed the rest off that. I was just waiting to get my point across, not really worrying about addressing what they were actually saying.
This really becomes an issue when someone is asking for your advice: If you’re not really listening to what they are saying and what their worries are, then are you really helping at all? Chances are you’re just trying to resolve a similar problem you’ve had in the past, assuming it’s the same this time around.
Some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten has come from a feeling that the person giving it really understood what my problem was and why I was worried about it. I felt like their advice was based off my situation and not a similar one they had in the past.
Yesterday I asked you to have a think about this idea of deciding on your response before the other person was finished talking – really just to open your eyes to the fact that this can be an issue. The real scary thing for me was that I was totally unaware I was doing it and chances are you are too.
But the more I think about it and the better I try to avoid it, the more I realise that we’re all making the same mistakes as I was. Every single day I have conversations with other people who are doing the exact same thing – not really listening and just waiting for their chance to talk.
But please don’t see this as me being up on a high horse about it – while I am better at it, I am still 100% guilty of doing it. And honestly, I think we all are.
But unless we’re content with having mediocre conversations with those we care about, never really connecting with anyone, and slowing down our path to sucsess, we need do more listening, and less assuming.