Try this listening exercise the next time you have nothing better to do.
Sit back-to-back with someone you know (if you don’t know them it could be weird) and engage in a role play. In the role play, one of you asks a hypothetical question like, “What did you think of the event?” The other person replies with a short response like, “I thought the event was great. I got a lot out of it!” Then the person that asked the question repeats the response word for word (“I thought the event was great. I got a lot out of it!”) and then gives feedback about the mindset or feeling of the person that shared that response. (“I think you liked the event and were even surprised by how much value you got out of it. You were enthusiastic, positive, and excited about attending the event.”) Then the person that responded to the question shares if the interpretation is correct or not.
Follow that? Then you switch roles and repeat the exercise.
The point you discover in the exercise is that we don’t spend enough time trying to understand the feeling behind the words people share with us every day. There is often true meaning that goes beyond the actual words. In fact, I’m not sure we even listen closely enough to the words.
Listening is such a complex skill set. In fact, top sales producers have told me over and over again that great listening skills led them to their success, not selling skills.
Listening is how they see their role. What role do you see yourself in?
And there are all kinds of roles we’re playing when we should be the role of the listener.
Ignoring what’s being said, selectively listening to only what you want to, listening to criticize, listening to judge, listening to enjoy (like music, the crashing of a wave, or silence), listening to empathize, listening to learn, and listening to completely understand concepts and feelings (active listening). There is no form of listening that’s bad or wrong per se although it certainly depends on the situation.
Think of how many times someone has introduced themselves to you and just moments later you’ve forgotten their name. By the way, you probably didn’t forget their name. You simply didn’t listen to it properly in the first place because your mind was more focused on what you were going to say next rather than on their name.