Why You Don't and Won't Listen
and Why You Should
If you were to ask someone who believes in you, has confidence in you and wants the best for you, “What would be the positive impact on my success, happiness, respect from the world and our relationship if I became a better listener? Small, Moderate, Large,” if you’re like most people you would say, they would answer, “Moderate.”
If you were to ask that same person, “What has already been the negative impact on my success, happiness, respect from the world and our relationship when I have been at my worse as a listener, by interrupting with, ‘Yes, but’, changing the subject, cutting people off, talking down/at people? Small, Moderate, Large,” if you’re like most people you would say, they would answer, “LARGE!” That’s because you’d remember times when you did any of those things with that person and came off as rude and disrespectful at best.
You and I know we all need to improve our listening, and yet we don’t.
So why don’t and won’t we listen to others?
Some of the obvious answers are anxiety, impatience, arrogance, upbringing.
When you are anxious, your mind is already feeling pressure from inside and the last thing it wants to do is have to take in more information to feel more overwhelmed.
When you’re impatient, either because of anxiety or some form of ADD like symptoms, that also makes it difficult to listen.
When you’re arrogant... well if that’s the case, you wouldn’t be reading this article, even if someone urges you too, you look at most people as less than or stupid and not worthy of your attention.
Then again, you may have grown up in a family of people who talked at or over instead of listening to each other.
There are two less obvious reasons why you don’t and won’t listen to others especially if you’re in sales.
Those two reasons are FOMO and FOFI.
FOMO of course stands for Fear Of Missing Out and you might be wondering how that might apply to being a poor listener.
FOMO when applied to sales is being worried that if by deeply listening you surface something that you don’t have a product or service or solution for and that the other person will go elsewhere. If for example a customer/client reveals that what they truly and urgently need is something you don’t have, then they’re not going to buy from you and if you need to make that sale that may cause you to not listen for fear of their having this realization.
FOFI stands for Fear Of Feeling Incompetent, where you’re afraid that if you really listen to someone they will bring up something you are utterly clueless about. Why FOFI is upsetting is that for many people, especially alpha energy people, feeling incompetent can lead to feeling a lack of confidence and feeling a lack of confidence can lead to feeling out of control. And feeling out of control is something that often creates anxiety in alpha energy people.
In reality, you’re not incompetent. It’s just that they brought up something you don’t know anything about, which is not a shortcoming on your part, because you can’t know everything. However, it can nevertheless still make you feel stupid and awkward at admitting, “I don’t know anything about that.” Just as men have trouble asking for help, many also have trouble admitting they don’t know something. It comes with that pesky Y chromosome.
In truth, you never need to fear FOFI, because if you’re truly dedicated to serving a customer/client, you can often send them in the direction to where they might get the help they’re looking for. To do this of course requires your really being there to help them, even when you’re not the direct provider of it, as opposed to only being interested if they buy something from you.
On the other hand, when you learn to listen, and we mean really listen, you use something we refer to a Michelangelo Listening.
Michelangelo famously said, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set it free.”
Michelangelo Listening is when you use a beginner’s non-agenda-driven mind and focus on what other people are listening for from you underneath what they’re listening to you for.
What others are listening for is frequently not something they are consciously aware of and is also often more important to them than what they are talking to you about. And if you can surface what that is and then deliver on it, people will lean towards you and want more of a relationship with you.
For instance, I will demonstrate it to you right here and right now because underneath what you’re reading now, you are looking for something deeper.
If the title grabbed your attention, which is what a title is meant to do, you have probably been told that you don’t listen very well and that you need to improve your listening skills.
However underneath looking to improve your listening skills is possibly the fact that being a poor listener has cost you something big in your life from a relationship, to possibly a marriage or a relationship with your child or a big client/customer and hence a promotion or a raise that you don’t want to reoccur... isn’t that true?
If it is true and I asked you to tell me what you lost by being a poor listener and you told me, can you understand how admitting it and telling me would greatly increase your motivation to become a better listener?
If you’ve read this far, you’re hopefully all in with regard to becoming a better listener and are now wanting me to point out how you can do that.
When you realize that a person is always listening for something, and you then become curious about what that is, why they're listening to you and why they're listening to you now — and you do it with an open mind, you are at your best as a listener.
That is because, like beauty, presence is in the eye, ear and regard of the beholder. The more that beholder feels you are tuned in and in sync with what they're listening for, the more present you are for them.
It is, of course, helpful to be able to intuit what people might be listening for without their telling you. When you do that, you can often come across as a mind reader, which causes people to become curious about what else you might know or understand about them.
However, being intuitive is not necessary.
Just realizing that people are always listening for something from you and being sincerely curious without an agenda by asking them what that might be — and furthermore, asking them why they are listening for it — demonstrates true listening. By doing that, you are valuing what is on their mind. This is something that people rarely experience.
How can you put this manner of listening into action?
The next time you are having a conversation with someone. and your instincts tell you that it's not going in the right direction, say to the other person, "Might we pause for a moment?"
This will catch them off guard, but also signal that you sense the conversation is not going in the direction they'd like.
After they react, with puzzlement and hopefully curiosity, and respond with, "Okay," say to them, "I think when we started talking, you were looking and listening for something to help you with a situation that you're in, and we didn't address that. What might you have been listening for, so that we can see if we can cover that now?"
As they begin to speak, focus on words or phrases they may use that demonstrate underlying emotion, such as "never" or "always" or "amazing" or "frustrating." Focus on when the intensity of their voice increases.
After they share, respond with, "Say more about the 'never' (or 'always' or 'amazing,' etc.)," because that will prompt them to go deeper and open up even more to you.
After that, ask them questions such as, "What has the impact of that been?" and "Is that something you'd want to do something about?" and "What would be the result if you were able to fix it (correct it, improve it, etc.), and what would be the result if you did nothing about it?"
This may be reminiscent of taking a consultative approach vs. a selling approach with others, and that is not a coincidence. The more consultative a person is, the better they are listening.