Why Don’t You Listen to Me!

Have you ever been having an important conversation, in which the other person is telling you something you need to know, and while you know you should give your full attention to what’s being said, you just can’t stop thinking about that annoying sound of static coming from a nearby radio? Or you can’t stop watching the other person shaking their knee? Or you feel compelled to answer every phone call that comes in to your cell?

Everyone’s attention has been drawn away from important exchanges now and then – but not everyone realizes how detrimental this is to effective communication. Too often, people simply allow the distraction to persist, and lose out on valuable information. Therefore, you must eliminate noise and distractions in order to be an effective listener and communicator. These barriers may be in the environment, like noises in the room, other people talking, poor acoustics, bad odors, extreme temperatures, an uncomfortable chair, or visual distractions. Or they could be physical disruptions such as telephone calls or visitors.

Another kind of barrier is something distracting about the speaker. Maybe he or she dresses oddly, shows poor grooming, and has disturbing mannerisms, confusing facial expressions, or body language. Or perhaps he or she has a thick accent or an unappealing presentation style.

Yet another barrier has to do with you, the listener, and can be either physical or psychological. Maybe it’s close to lunch or quitting time, and you’re preoccupied with how you feel. You’re hungry or tired, or angry, or maybe have a cold or a toothache. If so, you’re not going to be listening fully.

Another physical barrier could be your proximity to the speaker. If he or she’s either too close or too far away from you, you may feel uncomfortable and have a hard time concentrating.

A another sort of internal barrier is psychological. Perhaps you’re closed-minded to new ideas or resistant to information that runs contrary to your beliefs and values. Or maybe you’re bored, or daydreaming, or jumping to conclusions.

There are five basic reasons we fail to listen well. First, listening takes effort. As I said, it’s more than just keeping quiet. It means really concentrating on the other person. An active listener registers increased blood pressure, a higher pulse rate, and more perspiration. Because it takes so much effort, a lot of people just don’t listen.

Second, there’s now enormous competition for our attention from radio, TV, movies, computers, books and magazines, and much more. With all these incoming stimuli, we’ve learned to screen out information we deem irrelevant. Unfortunately, we also screen out things that are important.

The third reason why we don’t listen well is that we think we already know what someone is going to say. We assume that we have a full understanding right from the start, so we jump in and interrupt. We don’t take the time required to hear people out.

The fourth reason has to do with the speed gap – the difference between how fast we talk and how fast we listen. The average person speaks at about 135 to 175 words a minute, but comprehends at 400 to 500 words a minute. For the person who’s not listening well, that’s plenty of time to jump to conclusions, daydream, plan a reply, or mentally argue with the speaker. At least that’s how poor listeners spend the time.

And the fifth reason we don’t listen well is because we don’t know how. We do more listening than speaking, reading, or writing. But I bet you’ve never had a course in listening, have you?

A Winning Image Starts With A Good Self-Image

I have a teacup poodle named Vito. Vito is the size of a toaster, but  every time I take him for a walk, he never fails to pick a fight with some dog ten times his size. It’s  become clear to me that Vito has an image problem – he’s a little dog who thinks he’s a lot bigger than he really is. (Blame me for naming him Vito!)

Many of us, like Vito, carry around a self-image that doesn’t really jive  with the facts. And that can be devastating  to our careers.   After all, how we look in our mind’s eye really determines how successful we can be in dealing with other people. For example, if you have an overly negative self-image –  you feel that you’re too tall, or overweight, or unattractive in some way – you’ll lack confidence, and others will easily catch on. On the other  hand, if you have an overly positive  image of yourself – you think you  look terrific, when in fact you’re a  sloppy dresser who’s badly in need of a haircut – you’ll be blinded by a false sense of confidence  and make decisions, actions, or statements about yourself that might lead  people to question your professionalism…and  even your sanity.

In either case, analysis by yourself – and perhaps by those closest to you – is needed, because your image is important. Luckily, it’s also something you can easily change! To find out how others see  you, get some photographs or videotapes taken of yourself when you feel you’re looking your best. Ask for close-ups  and study them carefully. What do  you see that you like, or don’t like?

Then ask your best friends for their  candid opinions on how you look, how you carry yourself, how you come across
verbally, and what your car or house or briefcase or other material goods say about you. Promise
you won’t take offense – and don’t! Then ask them to tell you about your image in terms of knowledge
and enthusiasm as well as sincerity and integrity.

Now you can use your own and others’ candid analyses to change  aspects of your image that give off  the wrong impression, and walk with your head  held high!

We Accomplish Much More When We Learn To Focus On Others

There’s an old story of a young lady who was taken to dinner one evening
by William Gladstone, and the following evening by Benjamin Disraeli, both
eminent British statesmen in the late nineteenth century. “When I left the
dining room after sitting next to Mr. Gladstone, I thought he was the cleverest
man in England,” she said. “But after sitting next to Mr. Disraeli, I
thought I was the cleverest woman in England.”

Disraeli obviously had a knack for making the other person the center of his
universe, if only for the evening. If you practice attentiveness to others,
you’ll find it does wonders for both of you. They’ll enjoy it; you’ll enjoy it.
And together you’ll accomplish much more.

Make a conscious effort to think of others’ wants and needs before your own.
Start training your mind not to focus automatically on what separates you from
the other person. Rather, figure out what unites you, and how you can build
upon that base. Soon such empathy will become a habit – a very good habit that
will improve all your relationships immeasurably!