Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Eco-biz – Put on Your Listening Ears?

In a prior column, readers were challenged to ‘put on their listening ears’. Why? Through participating in 20011 Industry events, as both an attendee and workshop/speech provider, I observed polarized attendee participation. For, basically, there appear to be two distinct reactions: those who ‘plug in’ – participate in active listening and those who ‘disconnect’ – actually chose to walk out of a session. So, considering the fact most present-day businesses which tend to thrive are open to creative shifts in their business strategies, I’ve urged all to as the elementary teachers heed - ‘put on your listening ears’!
People who ‘put on there listening ears’
•           clear their mind of distractions,
•           ask open-ended questions that encourage the speaker,
•           ask questions that clarify any unclear issues,
•           don’t draw conclusions or make snap judgments,
•           don’t automatically agree with everything,
•           restate key points in their own words,
•           are open and non-defensive, and
•           avoid thinking about responses while the speaker is talking.
Successful people, regardless of Industry sector, are aware of the powerful role which listening plays and maximize its use. For example, politicians, at least the better ones, ‘work a roomful of prospective voters’ while intently focusing on each individual. Carefully listening to each person’s views, politicians converse earnestly with one person after another creating a positive and lasting impression in the voter’s mind that each person has their full measure of respectful listening.
Unfortunately, this tactic – although proven effective, is a technique most people seldom encounter. Stephen Covey in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, emphasizes the power of ‘empathic listening’. Covey says in some situations, there is a necessity to not merely go through mechanical responses that might be required for ordinary listening, but open oneself to the talker to the point where one actually feels what they are feeling. For, Convey believes the only way to establish communication in some professional and personal situations is by becoming, in a small part, the person you are listening to. He uses the word "sensing" (others call it "intuition") to describe the information a listener perceives during deep, empathic listening. While this strategy most certainly takes time to learn, with practice, the rewards are a whole new level of communication which automatically elevates you in the eyes of a talker because people who listen at this level are so rare.
On the other hand, perhaps in some ways, a more important concept is to extend the ‘golden rule’ which translated at the platinum level is to treat others not only as you would prefer to be treated but as they respectfully deserve. So, avoid ‘disconnecting’ and instead, enable your ability to listen for underlying issues. Then, address these issues, not emotion. During a recent ‘green’ conference, I witness a workshop instructor fail to accurately hear a stated issue. After providing examples of green build technologies, the instructor solicited comment. Responding, an attendee queried, “You are aware a house always faces the street?” Instead of interpreting the comment as a valid concern related to restrictive community building codes, the instructor ‘blew it off’.
Instead of ‘blowing off’ someone stated concern, as Covey’s research suggests, be the person who steps into the other person’s shoes. Don’t ignore stated issues, paraphrase the message by summarizing it, and use analogies to clarify it.  Participate in active listening skills, ‘put on your listening ears’.
About the author - To acquire details of Wright’s activities, visit her web site or contact or follow tweets at ID Wright Scoop or postings at facebook The Wright Scoop. As recipient of the Turning America from Eco-weak to Eco-chic Award,  Sylvia Hoehns Wright challenges all to ‘change America’s landscape’, move their life-styles from eco-weak to eco-chic – ‘green’ life’s garden, one scoop at a time!

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