Our world is dominated by sight, particularly in the finishing industry. Think of your new patio furniture and what comes to mind? Chairs and tables with a glossy, colorful powder coated finish that will look good even after the kids have used them as forts and pirate ships all summer. The point is, the image is visual.
We are bombarded with visual images from television, computers and even billboards and junk mail all trying to get our attention. Seeing uses light, which moves at 186,000 feet per second. Sound moves at just 1,088 feet per second. Have we become so used to this quick pace that we are unable to adjust to slower paces?
Do we really listen anymore? To listen well in any situation (work, home, social), we need to slow down. William Isaacs, in his article “Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together” has several pointers on how to listen well.
He suggests that you listen to yourself talk and notice what you are thinking. Too often people simply react with “stored responses” to what someone says. If an employee comes in with a complaint or suggestion you have heard before, do you give him/her the same old spiel?
When someone is in conversation with you, are you listening or are you dividing your attention between that person and the project on your desk, the memo in your hand or the blinking light on your telephone? Do you look at the person, your door or your watch?
How much do you assume you know about a situation when you may know very little? Perhaps this employee’s complaint is familiar, but the extenuating circumstances are far different, yet you don’t take the time to listen to him/her and find that out. Look for what challenges your point of view. Listening allows you to understand how others experience the world.
Listen for gaps in what you do and what you say. You may think you always do what you say, but make a point of being aware of it. Are you consistent? Do you “look into it” when you say you will? This is often a stored response.
Finally, be still. You may laugh and retort, “I run a business. I have no time to be still.” Sitting with your employee and listening, without formulating what you are going to reply, without making any decisions before you hear all the other person has to say, is a way of stillness.