A couple of weeks ago, we discussed the notion that being told “no” creates a personal fear when asking questions and also looked at how to dispel that fear.
Today, I wanted to address a second cause that keeps us from speaking up: not listening.
Earth to Me
Do you ever find yourself in a situation and realize you completely zoned out? You know you missed something, but you’re too embarrassed to ask?
The problem in this situation is that there’s no great way around it. I can try to piece together what I missed based on context clues, but do I really want to ask that question and look like a fool? Nope. I’m just going to keep my mouth shut, thank you very much.
Tune In. Listen Up.
If you’ve ever heard the phrase “active listening”, this is really what it takes.
I understand that meetings get long, professors can be boring and that guy that just walked by the window looked eerily similar to Lenny Kravitz…but he didn’t have a jean jacket on so that couldn’t have been him…wait, did someone just say my name? Dang it…
Personally, I find my listening skills directly conflict with my ego. As in, “I already know what she’s talking about”, so I don’t really need to listen. Or, “His jokes are so lame”, so I would have said it this way. And then, “I can’t wait to share my two cents because it’s the only thing I’ve thought about since we all sat down”, so I missed someone sharing that same opinion already.
It can become so easy to focus on “me” in social situations that active listening ceases to exist. I have to put my own agenda aside and work on giving my full attention to whoever is speaking.
Put my phone away.
Make eye contact.
Nod in agreement.
Take notes – which includes writing down questions, so I don’t focus on my question and stop listening.
Be Interested, Not Interesting.
In his book “How To Win Friends and Influence People”, Dale Carnegie talks about the importance of “being interested, not interesting”.
One of the most basic elements of being human is a desire to be known. Whether that’s by one really good friend or a group of peers, we at least owe it to each other to listen. It shows that we’re interested in them, shows them respect and affirms the fact that they have self-worth.
Will we always be perfect? No, but but that gives us something to work on.
Does that mean we always have to agree with someone and bottle our own opinions? Definitely not. But as much as we want to share our own stance on a subject, so does someone else. Let that create a dialogue.
Going to Level 3
In college, I took a class on consumer marketing where the bulk of our discussion revolved around Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. One thing I’ve always remembered was the professor’s insistence on being able to ask “Level 3” questions. Meaning, ask questions that are personal and allow someone to share their expertise or a cherished memory. It’s something that has stuck with me to this day, and I try to practice it when I can. It shows that I’m interested, and you can oftentimes see a visible change in that person’s demeanor.
So if I’m honest with myself, the real reason I typically don’t ask questions is because I’m either over thinking it (Pt 1) or not actively listening. If I can work through both of those, questions should become an opportunity for personal, professional and relational growth. So let’s ask away!