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12.16.2014 Sharon Spano, Ph.D.

Just Listen and You Will Know

Dr. Spano discusses why you must listen with your mind and heart to truly understand what others are saying.

Listening is the key to understanding. I don’t mean listening with your ears. I mean listening with your heart and mind so that you truly “hear” what the other person is saying. Or, not saying.

Every word or phrase that comes out of our mouths is underscored by a premise. A premise is a thought or belief behind the spoken words that is based on a specific assumption or conclusion. 

For instance, if I walk into a meeting and say, “I hate Monday mornings,” there’s a premise underlying that statement. 

It might be a faulty premise, but, nevertheless, it underscores what I believe about Monday mornings. Maybe I hate getting up early after sleeping late over the weekend.  Or, maybe Mondays are just a reminder that I’m bored with my job overall. 

Our words are often a surface conversation reflective of some deeper understanding or concern.   

It’s important for you to understand these distinctions because if you’ve been in business for any length of time, you’ve probably run across someone who wasn’t quite what you expected. 

Maybe it was a customer, employee, colleague, or even a partner. Maybe you were hurt, disappointed, or even exploited. 

Chances are you became involved with this person because she said or did something that impressed you or made you believe you had something in common.

There’s also a pretty good chance that you may have failed to listen for those unspoken messages below the surface of the conversation.

It’s easy to do because the premise is often hidden—sometimes even from the person speaking. It’s often that thought-behind-the-thought, and it’s at a subconscious level. This requires that you listen and ask relevant questions that will help you get to the core of what the person is really saying.

Here’s a few additional points to consider:

How Do the Spoken Words Reflect Values and Work Ethic?    

When you discern the premise behind a person’s actual language, you can quickly discover his values and perceptions. 

People tell you exactly who they are and what they value. We’re often so busy coming up with a response, we miss these subtle cues all together.

Practice this. 

Select someone that you do business with and listen for their language surrounding time and money.  Do this for one week and watch what you’ll discover.

Values equate to character and work ethic. I’m not suggesting that everyone you do business with should think and behave exactly like you. There’s a lot to be said about diversity of thought and action. 

However, if you have a history of doing business with people who cause you considerable stress, it may be a good idea to kick up your listening skills.

Is this Someone You Want to Do Business With?

When you listen and ask relevant questions, you are positioned to  discern if this person is in fact a fit for your business or your life. 

Here’s an example. 

I am currently seeking a few top gun real estate agents for our firm.  In speaking with one gentleman, he expressed a lot of concern about  how much money he’d make and how many hours he’d have to work to make that money.   

These are reasonable considerations. However, when it came time for us to schedule an appointment, he wasn’t sure of his work schedule or whether or not he could drive across town to meet me. 

I gave this gentleman several opportunities to clarify his own situation, but his language, demeanor, and state of confusion were red flag indicators that his approach to business was not conducive to success. 

I thanked him for his time and hung up.    

On the flip side, I spoke to another gentleman who shined like a superstar. He was clear on his financial goals, enthusiastic about making a change, and eager to set an appointment. 

When a conflict arose later that week, he called me a day in advance, apologized, and politely asked to reschedule. 

This is a man I’m interested in pursuing because his language reflected an underlying premise of high values, integrity, and a strong work ethic.   

Only time will tell if I’m right. Had I not been listening carefully, however, I probably would have pushed for an appointment with the first gentleman only to have him cancel or fail to show. 

Effective listening requires practice. I recommend you spend some time over the holidays listening to what people are saying or not saying. 

Think of the cues you may have missed over the last year.  How can you become a better listener such that you surround yourself with people who are a fit for what you’re hoping to accomplish in 2015?

Published by Sharon Spano, Ph.D. December 16, 2014