I am a bad, BAD listener. How about you?

I like to think I am a solid communicator, and it's true I can write a pithy paragraph, and contrive a sound argument. I can communicate ideas from a stage, or in a one-on-one, as well as most, I suppose.

But communicating is listening too right? In fact, surely 'understanding' is the foundation of it all?

So 'active listening' is a key business skill. Indeed it's a highly evolved human competency. And I lack it. Well often I do, anyway.

I know what I do wrong, but I seem unable to make big improvements. I see the same fault in others, and it irritates me no end.

So this is my year to become a better listener.

How?

Listen to understand, not to formulate an answer. • Stop interrupting. (I am disgracefully guilty of this) • To be 'more present'. Not to allow my mind to wander. To focus and concentrate. On the other person. • Stop assuming I know what someone is going to say. • To listen to 'the whole person'. In other words, be attuned to body language, tone and other non-verbal signals, so I really can understand. • Approach a conversation with a more open mind, with more empathy. • To be 'slower to understand'. Not to jump in with a solution too fast. To think more before I talk. • To ask more and smarter questions, so I really do understand. • Not to be defensive when I sense criticism or a different point of view.

I know I will fail at much of this. But I will try. And I will get better. Because it's important. At work. In personal relationships. With your kids.

I need to worry far less about 'being right', and far more about 'being right about what the other person thinks and feels'.

I need to remind myself every morning (and you might consider doing the same) that nothing I say today is going to teach me anything. Only by listening will I learn anything new.

I have mentioned elsewhere how the best recruiter I ever knew was a great listener. All the people I really respect and trust and go to for insights, are great listeners.

When someone really listens to you, you feel respected. Validated.

I must do better.

How about you?