Last week I attended a networking event. Another attendee introduced herself and began a conversation about leadership training, something near and dear to me. She’d read some of my posts on leadership and wanted to discuss leadership training at her business. This is who I want to talk to. It’s what I hoped to find at this event. However, not five minutes later, I could not recall her name or business. Does this happen to you? So, do you want to learn how to improve your listening skills from a poor listener like me?

I’m sorry, what’s your name?

So, I was saved when she asked for my card, and I took hers in exchange, but why didn’t I remember her name? It was because I wasn’t listening, I didn’t concentrate, and I was thinking about something else. Here’s the first minute of the five minutes to better listening skills.

  • When introduced to someone say their name out loud, call them by name, introduce them to someone, or do both
  • Next, jot down their name on a pad
  • After that, repeat their name in your head five times

Speak when spoken to

I occasionally attend events and don’t speak unless spoken too, and then I keep it short and to the point. It’s practice at turning off my inner voice(s), so I can concentrate on what others are saying. If you’re thinking about what you’ll say next, how effectively can you be listening? So, here’s the next two minutes of the five minutes. Randomly pick one or two conversations and turn off your inner voice. Don’t think about what you will say – just listen.

I can listen and text at the same time, damn it!

I was conducting a leadership meeting on communication when two managers complained about their direct reports being distracted by their phones. During this one-hour session, I kept track of how many times these two checked their phones. One checked five times the other twice. We live in an insanely connected world.

“In reviewing combined research from Nielsen, Pew Research Center, comScore, SmartInsights, and other organizations measuring how much time the average person spends on their device per day, one conclusion becomes glaringly apparent: No matter how you cut it, the average person spends over four hours a day on their device.” — Are You on Your Phone Too Much? The Average Person Spends This Many Hours On It Every Day

And it’s not only the phone, but we’re also distracted by TV, email, social media, and more. Can you be an active listener when your attention is divided? No, no you cannot. And as much as you want to tell yourself that you can multitask, check your phone, answer a text, and listen to someone all at the same time, that’s not how the brain works. You are not completing tasks simultaneously, you are task switching, and when you serial switch you do each task less effectively.

Here are the last two minutes of the five. Take two minutes and have a conversation with someone with zero distractions. No phones, no screens, no interruptions.

There you have it. Yes, there is more you can do to improve your listening skills, a lot more. However, if you do these five minutes of listening exercises daily for 30 days, you will become a much better listener. So, are you listening?

How Can I help You?

I like to help people and organizations, but I have three criteria I consider before taking an assignment – I believe in what the organization stands for, I know I can help, and it looks like fun. If you have any questions, Contact Me. 

Does your business have a  management training plan? Many organizations, large and small, use my book, The New Manager’s Workbook a crash course in effective management, as the basis for their leadership development program. I’m also available on a limited basis to conduct training with your team.

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash