Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Are We Really Listening?

My wife, Annette, and I have an excellent financial consultant named Ric Edelman who manages some of our assets for us.  Every month, Ric puts out a little paper called Inside Personal Finance (IPF). The newsletter is chock full of tidbits on financial management and investments. To lighten the overall tenor of the document, Ric’s wife, Jean, also puts in her own column called, The Other Side of Money. After pouring over the November copy of IPF, Annette pointed out Jean’s column and said, “You’ve got to read this!”

Jean’s column was entitled, “You Are Not Listening to Me.” Jean enumerated a number of reasons many people are not good listeners. Here are a few of the mistakes she lists:
  • Instead of listening, we are thinking about what we want to say next.
  • We listen just long enough to decide whether what is being said conforms to their own view.
  • We don’t let the other person finish. Instead, we begin to spout out solutions before the problem has been fully identified.
  • We filter and judge based on pre-existing assumptions, expectations, and intentions. 
After reading Jean’s column, I had to admit guilt on all four counts. I’m especially prone to commit number 3, but I commit the others as well. Fortunately, Jean offers suggestions on how to improve conversations.
  • Limit our talking in the conversation.
  • Stop assuming we know what the other person will say.
  • Turn off all electronics so we‘re not distracted.
  • Take notes to help us stay focused on the conversation.
  • Paraphrase what we think was said and ask whether we are hearing correctly.
  • Ask clarifying questions.
  • Notice facial expressions and body language—those are part of the conversations too. 
This is really good advice. I might paraphrase Jean’s recommendations by saying, “Forget about yourself and PAY ATTENTION to the other members of the conversation.  To be a good listener requires concentration on other people. You cannot stop your brain from continuously analyzing what others are saying, but you must resist the urge to blurt out your incomplete results.

Many people are fond of complaining about the status of the world today.  I believe that a big part of the problem is that we are not really listening to one another.

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