When you leave your next interview, meeting—or any kind of conversation, business or otherwise for that matter—it’s always a good idea to reflect on your interpretation of what was said. Did you hear what you think you heard? Sometimes the words that aren’t spoken carry the real message.
Be wary about listening for what you want to hear.
My son once asked his stepfather if he could use part of his office building for teaching country-western dance lessons. His stepfather replied, "I have reservations about that, Jeff. I'm often working late at night, and having people here would be distracting. And the cleaning crew that comes in might not always clean up after them—I don't know exactly what time they make it to our building. And the tenants next door have a silent alarm that even our own employees set off when walking through the lounge after hours—and they know it's there. Dancers in here would be setting it off and the police would be having to come out. And I wouldn't want people just milling around through our workstations."
"But couldn't you move those wall dividers over into the big open area and keep people out of the workstations?" Jeff asked.
"Well, I don't know. I guess that's a possibility .... What nights are you planning to give lessons—I'm up here late working every night but Wednesday."
"I haven't decided on a specific night yet," Jeff answered.
End of conversation.
My son came home and told me that his stepfather said it was okay for him to have the dance lessons in the building—as long as they were on Wednesday nights and as long as they used the partitions to keep people out of the workstation areas.
We hear what we wish.
Be wary about not listening for what you don't want to hear.
A regional manager of a construction firm had a long talk with his vice president to express dissatisfaction with what he considered misleading comments made to customers. "You tell customers we're not just a contractor—that we have our own manufacturers for the cabinetry we install in the office buildings. But a warehouse with a table saw is not a manufacturer. I don't like misleading people." The vice president soothed the manager's convictions with promises that they had plans to get into the manufacturing side shortly.
As time went on, there were other such discussions. The regional manager told the vice president he was upset about late commission checks and unnecessary requested travel. Each time the vice president soothed his feelings, agreed that things were not as they should be, and promised improvements.
Six months later when the regional manager offered his resignation, the vice president looked shocked. "You pull in more business than all the other regions put together. You can't leave. What will it take to make you change your mind? How much of a raise do you want?"
Consider your own receptivity.
Do you listen for what you want to hear or listen for what you don’t want to hear? What’s your mood, frame of mind or circumstance that may affect your own interpretation? Who could provide a more objective interpretation of the message delivered to you?
Make up your mind to listen. Stop what you’re doing when someone speaks to you. Concentrate on what they’re saying. Pay attention to a speaker’s facial expression, body language and voice inflection. Evaluate the speaker’s mood, timing, current situation, obvious agenda and potential hidden agenda.
Sometimes silence can be the most meaningful earful.
I enjoyed this article and it reminded me of this story: A story is told about two men walking in a crowded urban area. One comments on the lovely sound of a cricket, but the other, who doesn’t hear it, asks how this can be heard over the urban noise. The first man then drops a coin on the sidewalk and 12 heads turn in search of the sound. Source: Kermit Long
MA, CSP, CPAE, works with organizations to increase their productivity and effectiveness through better oral, written, interpersonal, and cross-functional communication. She is a keynote speaker and prolific author of more than 40 books, including her latest, The Voice of Authority: 10 Communication Strategies Every Leader Needs to Know and Communicate with Confidence!® She has been on Good Morning America, CNN, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Forbes, NPR, CNBC, and Fox Family. Dianna is the CEO of Booher Consultants, Inc., a communications training firm based in the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex. www.booherconsultants.com .