The Ear and the Brain

Question: I’m struggling to communicate with a co-worker. How do I get him to listen to me?

Answer: This question sure hits home. The mind of an entrepreneur is racing at 100 miles per hour. We juggle balls of all shapes and sizes. Frequently we are on the move at warp speed. People think we listen . . . and WE think we listen. But sometimes there are complicating factors.

If I say “hello” to you, usually you will say “hello” back to me. Does that mean that I listened to you? Maybe. But it’s for certain that I heard you. Listening is more complicated than the simple act of hearing. Let’s assume that you come into my office and tell me that there’s an issue with a particular client. You describe a course of action that you want me to approve to resolve this issue. I nod. I may murmur, “uh-huh.” And you leave believing that you have my consent. A week later you tell me that the matter was taken care of although there was some fallout with the client. I give you a blank stare at which point you say, “I told you about this last week!” You get another blank stare from me at which point I might suggest how you could have resolved the issue without the fallout. In the end you are irritated because of this outcome. What happened here?

This is a real life classic example of hearing and not listening. Members of my team who read this are nodding their heads so hard right now that they’re going to get whiplash. When you came into my office I had just finished a phone conversation and was still processing the gist of it. A thought also popped into my head about a related matter, and I needed to leave for a lunch meeting. I certainly heard you but didn’t have the presence of mind to slow down and listen to what you were saying.

There are several solutions. The easiest is to make certain that I am in a listening mode. Ask me if now is a good time to chat. I may ask if we could do it later and set an appointment with you. Or, if I have time, I’ll talk then. After you are finished telling me what you have to say, ask me for specific feedback – pros and cons or other thoughts I might have. Once a course of action is determined, ask me to summarize what I understand is going to happen. This can be done by you simply saying, “I want to make sure I do this the way we have agreed. Would you mind summarizing what you understand that I am to do?”

We all know that clear communications is paramount to success. It’s critical that we make certain that the people with whom we are communicating are truly listening to us and not just hearing what we say. Ultimately it’s our responsibility to make this happen.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.


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