Standing in a retail store I overheard two women talking about their kids. The first one said,"When I give Jeffrey green peas he stays up all night." The second lady's response was unique in that it wasn't in any way related to Jeffrey's plight. "Chrissy runs around the house like a chicken. I need medication." And the first lady's response was, likewise, not reflective of the update on Chrissy. "I let him watch too much TV. Maybe if I put him to bed earlier."
And so ensued a simultaneous, ceaseless, mutually exclusive, high energy conversation. "Jeffrey is growing out of his pants and I just bought them." "Chrissy's hair is getting way too long." "I can probably find some pants at a yard sale." "I could cut it myself but I don't know what I'm doing."
That's where I jumped in between them and yelled, "Isn't anybody listening?" Or perhaps I just made that part up. Nevertheless, we live in a society where many words are spoken but few of them are heard.
As an entertainer for a popular cruise line I routinely ate in a dining hall designated for staff. It was below deck, rather dingy and without the celebratory decor. But the wait staff always smiled. They donned a deep tan and spoke to one another in an unknown tongue. I suspected they were from out of town. The only word they ever said to me was, "Yes." "May I have some more tea?" "Yes." "Can I get an extra salad dressing?" "Yes." Always a "Yes" and always a smile. I waited and waited but never got anything I asked for.
I later found out it was because none of the waiters spoke English. I should have figured that out and spoke louder. They could understand what I ordered only when I pointed to the specific item on the menu which kept me from starving but didn't make for good conversation.
Communication seems to work best when it is give and take. Whether we don't bother to hear what others are saying or simply don't understand, it is listening, not talking, that delivers the greatest benefit. Here are three ways improved listening can make our lives better.
1.It creates better relationships: Only when we stop talking while the other one speaks and focus on the true meaning being conveyed can we hope to relate to their message. Listening is more than hearing words, it is understanding voice inflection and noticing facial expressions. When you repeat back what you believe the other person said, an instant connection is made. This is active listening. Success Consultant Royale Scuderi describes it well in her article "Active Listening, A Skill Everyone Should Master." It is this connection that creates a bond which leads to more meaningful relationships.
2.Listening makes us more likable: There are so many people that want to talk that listeners stand out like rare and high priced commodities. People with an ear to lend are simply more popular as "Success Consciousness" founder Remez Sasson explains in his article, "The Benefits of Being a Good Listener." Plus, as one great proverb suggests, even a fool is considered wise when he sits quietly and listens. And I might add, the occasional nod, grunt and concerned frown doesn't hurt.
3.It generates more profit: I got a call from a businessman who told me in great animation all about himself and his product. It was in excruciating detail. He crammed everything he knew into my ear. Do you know what I remember about that conversation? Nothing. To be fair I was para-sailing at the time and didn't bring anything to write on. But then he didn't ask if it was a good time to talk. Come to think of it, he didn't ask anything about me or my interests. Asking our customers questions about their wants and then intensely hearing their answers leads to our ability to offer services that benefit them and creates greater profits.
This idea of hearing what other people say is brilliant. I wish I had come up with it myself. On my final day in the cruise ship diner I pointed to the menu and asked if I could have the roller skate salad with a rubber squeegee on the side. My waiter gave me a big smile. "Yes." That was nice. This time I smiled back. I'm still waiting.