Last night while out to dinner, one of my dinner companions carefully and specifically ordered his drink, a bloody Mary. “I’d like it made with plain tomato juice, vodka, and a lime, I don’t want any spices at all, please.” The server took the order and shortly returned with a drink that included the spices. After tasting it my friend said, “Not again! At least 50% of the time I order this drink, it comes to me with spices. Why don’t they listen?”

He called the server over and started the process all over again, as we waited patiently before sipping ours, to make our customary toast. The second time the drink was perfect. “Nobody listens anymore” he said, “If only people listened well the first time we could avoid a lot of mistakes.” He then preceded to tell us of several other instances, all related to his business dealings, where someone did not listen properly and something had to be re-done a second time because of the miscommunication.

“Listening!” my friend said, “why don’t you write about listening – or the lack of it – in your tip this week.

Thanks – I was wondering what to write about!

Where do we learn to listen? It’s not a skill actually taught in school, is it? We learn to listen in our primary family situation when we are children. Like many of the things we learned at home, we learned by example. If we were surrounded by people who listened carefully and paid attention, we most likely learned to do the same. If we were surrounded by people who listened while doing other things, while distracted, or half-heartedly, we learned another style of listening. See where I’m going here?

Unless we were exposed to teachers, mentors or relatives that taught us otherwise, we picked up whatever listening habits we grew up with. And that leaves many of us needing a little fine-tuning in the listening department.

Here’s a few tips on tuning up your listening skills:

  • Desire it. Want to listen better. You need to have a desire to motivate yourself to slow down and make sure you understood what is being said to you.
  • Don’t make assumptions about what the other person is going to say. (And please don’t finish their sentences for them.)
  • Concentrate – Focus your attention, all of it, on the person who is speaking.
  • Don’t be thinking about your response while the speaker is still speaking
  • When the details are important, confirm your understanding of what was said. “So if I heard you correctly..” “Let me make sure I have this..” “Here’s my understanding..”
  • Practice. Like any skill, good listening takes practice. And it takes patience – especially in this fast paced world.

But think about this – there’s a bonus to doing it right. You don’t have to do it over.

Take good care and keep caring,

JoAnna Brandi

PS – I’m still working on my listening skills too. I’m still practicing… not perfect yet!

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