Top 3 Techniques of How Not to Listen

By Frank Kenna

Are you listening to your employees?  I mean, REALLY listening to them and hearing what they’re saying?

Most professional managers know that listening completes the circle of effective communications; we try to do it correctly and train others to do likewise.  But I had a recent “lesson” about how NOT to do this.

Last week I was at a tradeshow in Florida and stopped by a booth that had a product that I was interested in.  The rep I first talked to directed me to the expert in the particular area I was looking at, and at first I was impressed.  He asked me to tell him exactly what I was looking for, and then was quiet and waited for me to explain without any interruption.  So far, so good.  While I was talking, he was looking me right in the eye with an earnest and inquisitive look on his face.  I’m thinking, “Wow, this guy is really listening.”  But then he started to talk.

He talked at me for the next 5 minutes about the background of his company, what markets they serve, and how he got into the business.  As anyone who goes to lots of tradeshows knows, the last thing you want to hear about is a complete history of the sales rep and his company before even knowing if the product is a good fit.  This guy lost me, and by the time he got around to the product, I was squirming to get away.

The same techniques—and mistakes—apply to workplace communications as well as at tradeshows.  If you’re talking to another employee at your workplace who has an issue or problem, how well do you listen?  Do you really listen and hear them, or just put on a good front like that tradeshow rep?  Here are my top three ways of how NOT to listen:

1. Give a person your time, even if you don’t have any.  By doing this, you’ll get it out of the way and guarantee your inability to listen and concentrate on what the person has to say.  Then you can give the classic response, “Ummmm… let me think about that,” and you’re done!

2. Always respond to a person’s ideas with your own, better ones.  Why even consider theirs when you have your own pet favorites?  It’s so much easier to go with your own, great ideas instead of having to spend the time actually considering and giving a thoughtful response to theirs.

3. Spend your listening time coming up with your answer.  Why bother spending all that time listening to the entire, drawn-out issue that the person is dealing with?  After the first few words you’ll get the drift and can then spend the rest of the time coming up with your response.  Even better:  why listen to the whole thing?  Just cut the person off before they’re done and give ‘em your answer.  What a productivity enhancer!

These are my top three, but I’ll bet there are many more I haven’t thought of.  If you can think of any, let me know and I’ll write a part 2 just like I did with my top 20 hotel gripes.

Jude Carter
June 24, 2011

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