Be all ears

“I always know exactly what to say after an important meeting, not during a meeting!”

Does this sounds familiar?

I can not count the times clients mentioned this to me. A feeling of not really participating in a (virtual) meeting if you don’t speak. Of course it’s important that you make your voice heard, that your brilliant ideas are out there. And yet…

I always ask my clients: how many people on average are attending those meetings? Usually it’s around 8. Imagine they are all talking, all the time. What will you get done? Nothing. So what else is needed? People who listen, ask questions, pay attention to what happens in the (virtual) room. Not just sending, but receiving as well.

We all know the saying: people are listening to respond not to understand. In a world of constant rush and (learned!) need to be assertive and to speak up, to be able to truly listening to what is being said, is a rare skill indeed.

By challenging their mindset my clients are able to revalue what they are contributing to the meeting when they pay attention, and listen. This skill is called active listening.

What else can you do during the meetings you attend, when you’re listening? You can ask questions! Remember the best questions are the shorter questions. Ask your colleague to clarify points they are making, to sharpen their argument, or to make them think just a little bit different about a challenge they face. Not only will this help them (and the group) it will make them feel heard. And that will give you credibility too. So when you are ready to make your point, they are ready to listen too!

Of course now that we are all forced to slow down, what is curious is that a lot more people are catching up with the delicate skill of active listening. People start to observe more, the smaller things in life are becoming more important. I sincerely hope we can keep some of this, once lockdowns are slowly lifted. To find the right balance of being able to make your point and also to listen and be all ears.

“When you talk you are only repeating what you already know – but if you listen you may learn something new”

Dalia Lama

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