You’re Not Listening To Me!

Victor the RCA dog

Think back to a few significant conversations you’ve had in the past.  Think specifically of the one’s that just didn’t seem to go the way you intended them to.  Perhaps you thought the person listening to you had a look like the dog Victor in the old RCA advertisement (what? you didn’t know that was his name?).  You know, where they look confused and their head cocks a bit to the side.  Now, do you think there’s a chance others have felt that way when they were speaking with you?

Some time ago I used the power of LinkedIn groups to pose the question “… what are three IT DR (disaster recovery) “technology” issues a non-technology BCP (business continuity planning) professional should learn or know about?”.  The purpose of the question was to develop a list of “technology” issues, relative to disaster recovery/business continuity, that could then be used to frame a presentation for my local professional group, the MidAmerica Contingency Planning Forum.  By the way, if you have a profile established on LinkedIn please consider joining our MCPF group page.

To my posed question, I received some terrific suggestions dealing with issues such as storage, infrastructure, and governance.  But one of the most intriguing was “to be a good listener”.  Those that provided similar comments explained that there are technology experts within the organization.  Let the experts deal with technology specifics.  As a business continuity professional, our job is to understand the business continuity process, facilitate discussions with these experts, and in the end our plans will be appropriate and realistic.  Hmmm, facilitate discussions … being a good listener, where have I heard that before?

Good leaders listen

It’s been widely recognized that good leaders tend to be good listeners.  Good leaders listen to what others have to say.  As a matter of fact, good leaders encourage open and honest discussion (feedback) with others.  They aren’t fearful of what they might hear; just the opposite.  They see it as an opportunity to improve.

I recently read that the University of Missouri found that over 80 percent of our waking hours are spent communicating, and 45 percent of that time, we are listening. Most people aren’t very good listeners. They espouse bad or passive listening habits such as false listening, allowing their environments to distract them, or defensively coming up with arguments against the message instead of actually processing it.

Listening is a skill that everyone should regularly work on and become better at.  If we were better listeners, how much better would our professional and personal relationships be?  How would our decision-making process improve?   Wow, maybe we’ve stumbled onto something here!

Being in a leadership role requires an individual to be an effective communicator.   They need to speak well, write well, and LISTEN well.  Whether you are business continuity professional facilitating the development of an organizational plan, maybe a company CEO, the Chief of a public safety department, or the leader of your family, having effective communication skills is vital.

As people appreciate your attentive listening to them, your listening skills help you gain credibility which in turn helps ensure desired action.   Just like you practice your speaking skills before giving a presentation, or editing and revising written communications before sending them, you also need to practice your listening skills.  Practice your skills often and ask for feedback from others to measure how well you are listening.  Here’s some helpful ways to practice becoming a better listener.


As you work to improve your listening skills an easy and commonly used technique is to paraphrase what the speaker is saying and then repeating it back to them. To do this, you must REALLY pay attention to the conversation.  By paraphrasing what the speaker said, you show the speaker that you are hearing them and understanding what they are saying.

Don’t Interrupt

Another technique to practice is to allow the speaker a chance to be heard without interruption.  Perhaps you remember being engaged in a recent discussion with someone and you thought you knew where they were going and ended up interrupting them with your thoughts, or to finish what they were saying.  Practice patience when you feel the urge coming on.  Refocus your attention and allow the speaker the opportunity to complete what they are saying.

Ask Questions

Effective communicators know the importance of asking questions.  By asking appropriate questions, we are better able to understand a person’s motives in the conversation.  And to really get to the root of things, a good listener may need to ask several questions to truly understand the issue(s) or problem(s).

Other sources

Here’s some additional resources you might want to read to help you become a better listener.  Good luck!

Now Pay Attention  Here’s Why You Need Good Listening Skills

Active Listening  Hear what people are really saying

How to Really Listen to Others

TIP:  Just found this guidance thanks to Communispond …

Who pays for a business lunch? According to etiquette experts, the rules are:

  • Whoever benefits most from the meeting pays. In most cases, this means the salesperson.
  •  In the case of both parties benefitting mutually, the person who invited the other pays.

Oh, by the way, people who know about this stuff say breakfast meetings should last an hour and get down to business right away. Lunch and dinner should be longer and slower. Hold off business until after the appetizers or salad is served.


So, what do you think?

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