Tuesday, December 30, 2008

How well have you been listening?

It's the season for people to meet and greet: to hang out with family and friends and talk. If people are talking, someone should be listening. I wonder how you listen.

Some people listen for cues that it is their turn to talk. It's a little like writing Christmas letters - a seasonal chance to review and celebrate the parts of the year we want to keep in memory. Of course these people want to be heard - and they even want to listen - but they want even more to let the words flow past them so that they can see and hear and remember their own experiences.

Some people listen to connect. They do not really care much about the content of the conversation as long as they can create rapport and goodwill. This is useful at many, many seasonal gatherings. We should appreciate fully the value of goodwill and rapport in a season where they are often in shorter supply than the greeting cards would have us believe.

Some people listen to learn. They connect so that they get good content. They focus on content and on connecting content and context. They gather information they can use immediately or store for future use. They are learning because there are changes they want to make and they require information.

Some people listen because they love to listen. They are aware of context and content and connection and they work all three so that the sum is greater than the parts. They energize the people speaking, they create focus and they collaborate in creating meaning and tangible good. They are great listeners.

Not everyone has to be a great listener. Sometimes just showing up for the conversation counts. It's okay if some conversations are just about moving through the holidays with peace and pleasant manners.

Sometimes, though, you have the chance to be a great listener. You can find what you need and make someone else feel great.

If you have the chance, take it. Try it.

Listen.

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