Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Why we have two ears

“God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. We should listen twice as much as we talk”

In my professional life I worked as a leadership skills trainer for several years. One of my favorite and to this day most impactful courses were the ones that discussed listening skills. This is been a hot leadership topic for years and back then we did not have the additional distractions of today with instant messages, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Angry Birds and a whole slew of other things in our hands beckoning for attention.

It seems now more than ever that listening to others is a skill that people are losing. You see it all the time with teenagers that are sitting together but the entire time instead of talking they are tapping away at something on their phone. Adults my age are just as bad. Just a few weeks ago I was at a birthday party for a good friend and noticed more than half the folks there were on their phones a great deal of the time vs. enjoying the conversation and company of each other.

I know I am certainly not immune to this as well. I cannot tell you how many hours I have wasted engaged in a twitter conversation or game of word feud while at the same time sitting on the couch or in a restaurant with my family. This is quite shameful really when I think about it.

When was the last time you had someone put their entire self into just being there for you and listening to what you had to say?

I call this being fully present. It is treating this moment and this conversation as it were the most important conversation in the history of conversations. Well, that is a little creepy but you know where I am going with this.

So how can we be fully present?

Eliminate distractions—Turn away from the computer, put down the device and don’t answer the phone if it rings

Listen with your eyes—there is power in eye contact. If you turn and concentrate intently on the speaker they will know you think what they are saying is important

Listen with your heart—People often are communicating something to you beyond the words they may be speaking. It is only when fully present with open hearts as well as ears that we can understand someone else.

Remember it is not about you—Sure, maybe you could care less about the random story the 12 year old may be telling you but to that kid (or adult) it may in their mind be very important. By simply listening, you may turn out to be the only person that ever really shows you care for this person and that my friend is very powerful.

Shut up! Most people don’t listen and instead are just waiting for their turn to speak next. It is only when you give up yourself that you can understand the other person.

My challenge to you is to dedicate one day to being fully present with others and use every interaction as an opportunity to really listen. I know if you do this you will be amazed at the results. Think of the difference just listening could make in your relationship with your spouse, children and employees.

Being present is one of the greatest gifts you have to give.

What about you?

Do you struggle to listen?

On the other hand, do you struggle to be heard?

How to you plan to be fully present with someone this week?

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