Listen to learn

by Jack Warren, editor

Earlier this week while doing a little work at the coffee shop, I observed a conversation between two people occurring at a table close to me. The entire time that Person A spoke, Person B appeared to be poised to launch, much like a Jeopardy! contestant or a race horse at the starting gate. For the entirety of the conversation, it was as if there were a sign scrolling across Person B’s forehead which read, “Is it my turn yet?!”

The reason it was so recognizable to me is because if I don’t consciously address it, that person is me. And that’s it for a large percentage of us. If we are not careful, we can easily come across as that guy. We must be careful in a conversation not merely use the other person as “ball flipper” (as my friend, MLB hitting consultant, Kevin Wilson likes to label himself), merely using their side of the conversation as a launching point for the really important things that we have to say(!).

Use your conversations to learn. Listen with a purpose. Not only will you make the other person feel as if what they have to say is important, you might actually discover something new or be forced to reevaluate one of your own long held ideas. In Chris Voss’ book on negotiation, he points out that you need to get into the habit of not formulating your response until you’ve listened to what is being said. He urges you to push aside that really important point(!) in your head and just listen. Listen to what is being said. Consider it deeply. Pause, if necessary. Only then, formulate your thoughts and reply.

There is so much more to this topic, such as body language, posture, and the use of the language, but consider this to be a point from which you can begin to engage in more productive discussions by merely listening to learn.

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