Monday, March 23, 2009

6 Ways to become the Most Listenable Person You Know

“Nobody around here ever listens to me!”

If you’ve ever said this before, there are two possible reasons why.

First, maybe you’re surrounded by poor listeners.

This is highly probable, as a large percentage of people suck at listening.

Of course, that’s the easy way out – to blame everyone else. To complain, but take no personal responsibility.

ON THE OTHER HAND: Has it ever occurred to you that perhaps you’re not a Listenable Person?

I’m not saying that’s true. But it IS incredibly convenient to observe someone’s unapproachable behavior and immediately assume that it’s their fault.

When instead, you could turn inward and ask yourself:

"What is it in ME that might be causing this person to be unapproachable?”

So, the secret is not to “get people to listen to you,” but rather, to identify and embody the attributes of Listenable People.

Let’s explore six elements of what makes an employee (or any person, for that matter), listenable. As you read them, ask yourself three questions: (1) How good am I at this? (2) How could I improve on this? (3) Who do I know that currently does this, and how do I respond to it when they do?

1. LISTENABLE PEOPLE … listen first. Because I’ve written about four book’s worth of modules on listening, let me just give you the quickest, easiest, most effective summary of how to grow bigger ears:

o In ONE word: Patience
o In TWO words: Take notes.
o In THREE words: Don’t react; respond.
o In FOUR words: Dance in the moment.
o In FIVE words: Love them with your ears.
o In SIX words: Will this comment disrupt or contribute?
o In SEVEN words: Stop rehearsing what you’re going to say.
o In EIGHT words: Create a safe container where people can share.
o In NINE words: Facilitate the exploration of the other person’s immediate
o experience.
o In TEN words: Enable the person to give birth to their own understanding.

Then, when the time is right, make the transition. After someone appears to be finished speaking, try saying, “Have you said everything you need to say?” If they confirm, then ask, “Now that I’ve listened to your point of view, would you be willing to me share mine?” How big are your ears? How are you monopolizing the listening? And what would happen if you always let the other person speak first?

2. LISTENABLE PEOPLE … create a listenable environment. When you walk into someone’s office or sit down, start off by asking, “Is this a good time for you to listen to me?” If yes, proceed to speak. If not, ask them, “When would be a good time for you to listen to me?” These questions reinforce your commitment to creating listenable environments.

Also, be sure to remove listening distractions. If you’re having a conversation in your office, shut down your email and instant messenger programs. Turn off your cell.

Or, if you’re meeting someone in public, get there early so you can sit down first. Chose the chair that faces out into the busyness. That way your conversation partner will be facing a wall or booth backdrop where there are limited distractions.

This will keep him focused on you. This will keep him listening to you. Is this setting conducive to listening? What around you might be distracting someone from listening to you? How could you put yourself in the most listenable position?

3. LISTENABLE PEOPLE … are enjoyable. The word listenable simply means, “A pleasure to listen to.” So, that’s pretty simple. If you want people to listen to you, concentrate on (NOT) morphing into one of the following toxic personalities: complainers, whiners, criticizers, know-it-alls, conversational narcissists, assholes and emotionally overactive people.

These people contribute little (if any) positive value to encounters and are either avoided or ignored. Which one are you? Which one do other people perceive you as? Would YOU listen to you?

4. LISTENABLE PEOPLE … use hangars. A surefire strategy for becoming more listenable is to use Vocal Hangars. These conversational bookmarks attract people’s attention by building excitement around what you’re going to say next. Examples include:

o What if...
o The secret is…
o Here's the deal…
o Let me ask ya this…
o Yes, and here’s why…
o Here’s the best part…
o Here’s the cool part…
o Think of it this way…
o Here’s my suggestion…
o Here’s the good news…
o What would happen if…
o And here’s the difference…
o I wonder what would happen…
o Well, there’s a distinction…
o Well there’s a secret behind it…
o Have you ever thought about this…
o The question I always ask myself is…
o Here’s what I want you to think about…
o I can answer that question in TWO words…
o The question you’ve got to ask yourself is…
o Think carefully before you ask this question…
o I have one observation and one question – are you ready? (my personal fave)

The secret to using Vocal Hangers is to pause ever so slightly right before you deliver the goods. This heightens the level of anticipation and energy into the conversation.

What’s more, the more you use them, the more you’ll internalize them.

The more you internalize them, the more natural they’ll sound.

The more natural they sound, the more they become part of your lexicon.

The more they become part of your lexicon; the more people begin to expect them.

And the more people begin to expect them, the more they pay attention when they hear them.

Now THAT’s listenable! What is your trademark Vocal Hanger? How do you elicit rapt interest? And what words or phrases used by others always captivate your attention?

5. LISTENABLE PEOPLE … are musical. Well, sort of. When you google the word listenable, the majority of the 205,000 pages that come up are related to music: Forums, message boards, concert reviews and record label blogs.

Each discussion points to a variety of bands and artists that are “listenable,” inasmuch as they are good for any mood/weather/situation and appeal to a wide, cross-generational audience.

IN SHORT: Listenable music is the band you watch for two hours without looking at your watch. Listenable music is the album you could spin on Repeat all afternoon and not even care that you’ve been listening to the same ten songs seven times in a row.

Your challenge is to extract those elements of listenability from the music world and teleport them into your daily interactions.

REMEMBER: If having a conversation with you is like blasting amateur screamo tunes at full volume, it’s going to be tough for people to listen to you. Can you relate to almost anybody? Would people love to be around you in a tense situation? And, during your conversations, are people thinking about booing you off stage, or raising their lighters for an encore?

6. LISTENABLE PEOPLE … aren’t unlistenable. Damn it. Double negative. Sorry. Anyway, when I googled listenable, I also did a search for unlistenable. What I found were people’s discussions on “unlistenable music.” They were fascinating. Here are a few of my favorite reviews:

o “If you take your date out to this concert, you ain’t getting’ lucky.”
o “I would never play this record for anyone for fear that they would uncontrollably start hurting me.”
o “I don’t really know how the song ended, as I didn’t get that far before running out of the room crying.”

Obviously, these reviews of unlistenable music are a bit extreme. But the parallels between music and interpersonal communication DO exist. So, here’s my suggestion:

STEP 1: Make a list called “Ten People Whose Conversations Make Me Want to
Commit Suicide with a Protractor.”

STEP 2: Under each person’s name, write three reasons WHY that person is difficult to listen to.

STEP 3: Compile a master list called “Characteristics of Unlistenable People” and post in your office.

STEP 4: Do the opposite. BE the opposite.

If you do this, I guarantee that the people you work with will start listening to you more. Who are the most unlistenable people you know? Where in your life do you make those same mistakes? What could you do instead?

- - -

REMEMBER: The secret is not to “get people to listen to you,” but rather, to identify and embody the attributes of Listenable People.

Commit to doing that, and soon you’ll never have to say, “Nobody around here ever listens to me!” again.

LET ME ASK THIS...
How will you become the most listenable person you know?

LET ME SUGGEST THIS...
For the list called, "23 Ways to Bring More of Yourself to Any Situation," send an email to me, and I'll send you the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Coach, Entrepreneur
scott@hellomynameisscott.com

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