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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

learning to listen

Information comes at us constantly, whether we're ready to receive it or not.  Lately, I find myself telling and re-telling things more than once to the same person.  With a new school year beginning and all that goes into getting both returning and new student employees up-to-speed on changes, I expect a certain amount of repeating myself because there is a lot to take in.  

However, this year's "repeat button" has been used more often than in the past.  
For example, I explained some changes needed following an event last week.  
I took the time for a face-to-face conversation along with written instructions left for the building managers to follow.  I went home for the evening and then received a phone call a few hours later, asking what needed to be done about the exact instance I gave specifics on.  I have to ask myself,  "do they listen?" or "am I speaking in terms they do not know?"  While my lingo may not be as hip as theirs, most of the staff speaks English as their first language.  I would have say it comes down to their ability to listen.  We likely all have the ability, but do we use it?

So, what does it mean to listen?  
I don't think it means simply looking at the one who is talking and nodding your head.  According to Merriam-Webster listen means:
to hear something with thoughtful attention : give consideration 
With this in mind, I have to say I feel the issue lies in the words
 "thoughtful attention."  In order to give thoughtful attention, 
one has to be able to think and pay attention at once, right?  
Distractions are all around us, as I mentioned in a previous post, so it's time to tune 
in for real.  Put away the cell phone and remove the ear buds while someone is talking to you.  Shut the laptop and give attention to what is being said. 
Repeat it back to show understanding.  
If we are thoughtful about what is around us and take time to be attentive
to those things, listening should not be the issue.  We can digest the thought, idea or
direction, and then do what's necessary.  By listening, you may learn something about your co-worker, classmate or neighbor.  You could discover a shared interest or maybe even make a new friend. 

Who will you choose 
to give thoughtful attention to today?    


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