I’m going to let you in on an issue my husband and I have. Like a lot of men, when he gets home from work, he’s not in the mood to interact. I, on the other hand, work from home only interacting with my co-workers via email. Other than my 30 minutes at the gym, I usually go all day without speaking to another adult. Thus, when he gets home, I am in the mood to talk.
A few months ago, I’m telling him some story about how hard my workout that morning was or some funny comment one of my trainers made, because after all, my editing work doesn’t really make for good stories. Can you imagine? Babe, you will not believe this! I was reading this article, and it didn’t have a single Oxford comma in it. No, I don’t talk to him much about work. I stick to stories about getting the children to school and my workout. Maybe the dog farted that day, and I’ll inform him how awful that was. The problem, as I mentioned, is I really want to talk, and he really doesn’t want to listen.
On days when I’m being wise, I give him time to decompress before inundating him with chatter. Apparently, I didn’t do that on this particular day. On this particular day, my husband responded to my unwanted story with one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard him say. Perhaps one of the stupidest things any husband has ever said to any wife. He asked me, “Do you really expect me to be paying attention to all these gym stories?”
Dear readers, if my husband had been putting into action today’s habit of “listen to understand,” he would have been much happier that evening. I assure you, things were not so pleasant after that point.
But here’s the thing, we all want to be better listeners, right? Apart from my husband on that fateful day, most of us realize the value of listening. Most of us get it that better communication will improve our relationships whether intimate or professional. What does that look like, though?
Well, your lovely blogger friend, Becca has found some expert tips. Julian Treasure is a sound and communication expert. He wrote How to be Heard, which is about speaking so that people listen. Clearly, I need to read it. He also wrote Sound Business, which Amazon calls “a practical guide to the use of sound in business.” This is why I chose his tips to share with you; they are practical, concrete things you can start right now to make yourself a better listener.
Julian Treasure’s 5 Exercises to Improve Listening:
- Spend 3 minutes in silence every day to reset your ears.
- When you are in a noisy environment, notice how many “channels of sound” you can hear.
- Enjoy mundane sounds like a dryer or a coffee grinder.
- Move your listening positions.
- Receive, Appreciate, Summarize, Ask (RASA)
Here’s the full TED talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/julian_treasure_5_ways_to_listen_better
How to get better with names
The other thing I wanted to share with you today is how to remember names. Lots of people say, I’m not good with names. I “wasn’t good with names” until I decided to be “good with names.” See, I’m convinced it’s not a memory problem, but a listening problem.
Brief background story to underscore why I think it’s important to remember names and why it applies to today’s habit. During college, I volunteered at a campaign event for an Arkansas state representative. One of the older volunteers made a point of introducing me to this politician and telling him of my plans to go on to law school.
A year or more passes, and I am volunteering at a booth at the county fair. The same politician shows up to shake hands and kiss babies. When he sees me, he sticks out his hand and asks, “Becca, have you decided on a law school yet?”
I was floored. I was flattered. I was determined from that point on to remember people’s name. You know why? It makes people feel good. It makes people feel important, and I, for one, like making people feel like they matter.
Here’s how I became good at remembering names. I listened when people said their names. You’re thinking I listen; I just don’t remember. No, no you don’t. You do what I used to do. You think about how your hand is sweaty or about saying your name or about how you don’t really care to meet this person or about what your child is doing behind this person or about the next question in the conversation. You think about what you are going to say next rather than listen to understand.
“Most people do not listen to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” -Stephen Covery, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
When an introduction is being made, I quiet the voices in my head so I can really listen to their name. I repeat it in my head, and then I allow my thoughts to swarm back in.
Bing, bang, boom, I’m good at remembering people’s names. If I didn’t quiet the noise in my head and hear the name the first time, I ask again. “Tell me your name again?” or “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that.” I do this immediately, so I don’t have to say later, “I forgot your name.” Lastly, I call them by their name at the end of the conversation, which helps it stick in my memory.
So, how do you listen to understand? How do you remember people’s names and give them a nice feeling? You quiet the thoughts in your head and listen. It takes practice, and sometimes I still forget, and then, I “forget” the person’s name. But more often than not, I didn’t actually forget. I didn’t listen in the first place.