1. Pay full attention to the speaker.
2. Put aside any preconceived ideas of what the speaker is going to say.
3. Interpret descriptively and not judgmentally.
4. Be alert for confusions and ask questions to get clarity.
5. Let the speaker know that he/she has been heard, and what has been communicated.
Here are a number of common hindrances to being fully present:
• Ignoring: lack of attention (looking elsewhere, fidgeting), boredom, disinterest, pretending to listen
• Selective listening: hearing only parts
• Sidetracking: changing the subject (without proper transition); telling your own story; making light of, with inappropriate humor
• Evaluative listening: agreeing or disagreeing before the explanation is finished
• Probing: asking too many questions (from your frame of reference) with little sense of the person
• Interpretative listening: explaining what's going on based on your own motives and behavior
• Advice giving: offering solutions; focusing too much on content
Your challenge is to pick one habit that keeps you from being fully present, and focus on reshaping that habit in all your interactions.
1. I decided to try going through a meeting without telling any jokes. I didn't actually make it all the way, but they seemed to appreciate my joke more, when I finally told it.
2. I didn't really know what to do, as I thought I was a good listener. I got a support person who told me that I should stop reading my mail during meetings. That really surprised me, because I thought myself so good a listener that I could read mail and listen at the same time. Besides, it kept me from interrupting. My supporter told me that even though I might be hearing everything that was said, my reading made it look like I wasn't paying attention, or at least didn't care what was being said.
3. I'd read about not giving solutions during review meetings, but I was strongly opposed to the idea. It just didn't make sense to me. But, since I had to do this assignment, I decided to try doing one review without offering any solutions. I did have two solution to offer, but the author came up with one of them a few minutes later, before I said anything about it. Actually, I guess it was pretty obvious, and if I'd said it, he probably would have thought I considered him stupid. I saved the other until after the meeting, and it was really appreciated. It seemed to be a pretty good review, actually one of the better ones I've ever attended.
4. I have to tell you that I'm known around here for being the person who can get anything out of anybody with my penetrating questions. I decided to try a new tactic. Whenever I found myself thinking of a neat question, I caught myself and asked, instead, "What else do you want to tell me?" I got just as much information as I ever get, so maybe I'm not such a great questioner as I thought. Or maybe I'm greater—I can do it with just one question!
5. I looked at whoever was speaking. Every time. I had been missing a lot, not seeing facial expressions and posture. I think I'll do it again.
These challenges are adapted from my ebook, Becoming a Change Artist, which can be obtained from most of the popular ebook vendors. See my website <http://www.geraldmweinberg.com> for links to all of my books at the major vendors.