June 23, 2012

Say again?

Most articles about listening skills are awful. They tend to come from the “10 tips how” category of writing, where the author fleshes out her two good ideas with eight fillers: eight interchangeable “pay attention,” “no, really, pay attention,” or “stop letting your mind wander, buster.” The almost-helpful hints are based on the theory that not listening actively comes from a lack of focus, so the cure is for the author to instruct you to focus. Job done, move along now.

I’m not very good at listening, which is why I pay attention to advice about it. I’ve learned two things (no, not ten) that I can share.

One, your eyes are the enemy of listening. You can, of course, keep from seeing that distracting shiny thing: close your eyes or take notes. Both serve the same purpose.

The second (not unexpected) advice is to Shut the Hell Up. Inside your head is an answerer, who’s formulating what to say in response to what you’re hearing. You can’t really stop this internal noise, but you can keep it from being spoken.

Any tips you would add?