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Are You Listening?


If you read my previous post, you’ll see that that one of my top EQ skills for 2023 is to stop being right. My other top EQ skill for 2023 is to Listen (with a capital L). I find that if I can stop trying to be right, be as present as possible and not be judgmental, I have a shot to listen effectively. Essentially, I aim to listen to understand. As some of you know, I work part-time at REI in footwear and it’s a great lab for me to practice my priorities for 2023. With every customer I approach, I remind myself of the opportunity to not be right and to listen and understand their needs, then provide options. Being an active listener requires that 1) I ask good questions, 2) I remain curious, 3) I wait to speak and 4) I keep my focus on the customer.


Most people speak at about 125 words per minute, yet our brains can handle over 800 words per minute. That allows for quite a bit of thinking to take place while someone is talking. I work hard at quieting my mind and waiting to speak after someone has finished. I admit, this one is difficult for me. Sometimes my brain defaults to anticipating what I want to say in response to what they are saying. I remind myself to continue to be inquisitive by asking questions before responding. I want to be curious about some of their thoughts and conclusions. I try to find one or two options, particularly if they have one specific shoe in mind to try on. I find my work at REI to be much easier to practice my listening skills. It does spill over into the rest of my life, but it certainly takes more concentration to do it. I know the skillset needed. I just struggle with reminding myself to do the same at home with family and friends.


When I find myself particularly busy at REI, I’ll take a long slow yoga breath (in through the nose, out through the mouth) to calm myself and remind me of my priorities. Listening to understand is really important to me. Without that, I miss out on a chance to connect with someone.


What do you do to assure you are listening to understand?


I’m a consultant and coach. How can I help you or someone you know?

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