Listen up! Yes You! Listen up!

It’s not just for coaches and teachers anymore. Give the person speaking the courtesy of your attention. Your conversations will go smoother and faster. You will be able to get more done in less time.

This is especially true for face to face meetings. It is also true for phone calls and web chats.

For meetings over the phone or on a webcast it’s too easy to click onto another screen and check your mail or do whatever. Don’t! Focus on the conversation in front of you. Multi-Tasking does not work … give the conversation the attention it deserves. Focus on hearing more so that you can do more.

Here are Seven Tips for Hearing More and Doing More

1. Minimize distractions

This is obvious, but one that bears repeating. If there is a window open or a noisy activity happening close by, seek ways to remove it. If it’s not possible to remove the distraction, seek to minimize it. If this is not possible consider moving the conversation to someplace where you can Hear More so you can Do More.

2. Be present

  • Years ago Elizabeth Taylor paid George Hamilton a huge compliment. She said that when he was speaking with you … he was speaking with YOU. That he was present.
  • He was present in the conversation. In the moment. This is a skill and an art. One that takes time, energy and effort to master.
  • Being Present is important in order to have deep conversations.

3. Turn your phone off

  • Or at least put it face down
  • Play The Phone Stack game — whether it’s just two people or if you are in a group. This applies to tablet devices too. It’s a great way to add a financial element to a conversation. Keep in mind … it’s not a game. The focus should be on the conversation.

4. Focus on the person

  • Not the distractions around you.
  • Face AWAY from the hustle and flow. If you are in a restaurant or coffee shop … put your back to the distractions.
  • Case in Point: Have you ever spoken to someone at a trade show and they kept looking over your shoulder? Perhaps they were looking to see if someone more important than you might walk by.
    • To me … this is very disingenuous and disrespectful
    • Don’t be THAT person.
    • If the other person is distracted. If your conversation isn’t important enough to keep their attention perhaps they are right. And you should implement Tip 7.
    • Actions speak louder than words. Your actions should be focused on one conversation at a time.

5. Don’t use filler words to pause and think

  • Ummmm and Uhhhhh should not be used to fill a pause while you are thinking.
  • If you need time to think … just think. Quietly.
  • Tips to help you while you think:
    • Let them know you heard them
    • Let them know you comprehend what they said
    • You DO NOT have to agree with them. That may come later. Or it may never happen. That’s OK.

6. Ask clarifying questions

  • If you don’t get it … Ask for clarification
  • If you aren’t sure you heard them correctly … Ask for clarification
  • If you don’t agree … Ask for clarification. Make sure you understood their point. You still may not agree, but at least you’ll know for sure.

7. It’s OK to disengage

If the conversation isn’t going well. Whether it’s because of distractions … on your part or theirs. Whether it’s not going the way you expected. Or for whatever reason. It’s OK to end … or at least pause … the conversation. You can always pick up the conversation at a later time.

Why Listening Matters

In the end … Hearing More is about Doing More. People need to put the energy into the conversation that they expect to get out of it.

  • If you can’t put the necessary energy into the conversation … Perhaps you are wasting your time and the other persons time too. If you find this happening you might want to consider Tip 7.
  • It doesn’t mean you can’t go back to the conversation. It just means … use the time and the energy you have wisely.

Did you hear that?

That was YOU in your next meeting … paying attention and getting twice as much done in half the time.

By paying attention, by being present, by asking clarifying questions … you can Hear More and Do More.

Try some of these tips in your next conversation. I predict you will be able to hear subtle nuances and improved elements to engage with the person on the other side of the table or the other end of the phone. My request to you … try them. My second request … if you feel so inclined … please feel free to let me know how it went.


Jeff  is a veteran in the Enterprise Content Management industry. Over the past 20 years he has worked with customers and partners to design, develop and deploy solutions around the world. Jeff is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances at Winshuttle. He has worked for Microsoft, FileNet (IBM), K2, Captaris, Open Text, Kofax and Kodak. He speaks and blogs about ECM and the Intersection between Social, Mobile and Cloud Computing.