For anyone who has been around sales training or even just general business training you have been drilled about the importance of listening. Have you heard that since you have 2 ears and one mouth you should use them in that proportion? In other words, listen twice as much as you talk. Sage advice and I can attest to its effectiveness and I can also say that when I yap too much I screw things up. This is frank thinking after all so I’m OK with blowing the whistle on my own missteps.
This training was always dependent on the face to face or phone conversation that made up the bulk of our communication prior to the new Internet Age that we are moving deeper into. So do the rules still apply and if they do have they changed at all?
I think these precepts apply more than ever but they have changed so significantly due to our new ‘communication’ techniques and habits. I’m not sure that anyone has really thought out how it looks when you never need to see or speak directly to someone to ‘communicate’. Here’s my stab at it.
Being a good online listener means you:
- Type half as much as the rest of the people on Twitter or Facebook or e-mail or wherever – I see a lot of ‘one-ups-manship’ occurring especially on Twitter. The supposed experts always seem to try to leave an interaction with the last typed word. I recommend you let them have it so you can move on with your life.
- Don’t read emotion into anything – This has been a problem with electronic communication since the advent of e-mail and the earliest days of discussion forums. Apparently no one has grown much because a day doesn’t go by where you don’t see some kind of nasty string of comments in a blog or some contentious back and forth on Twitter. If you feel yourself getting ‘heated up’ step away from the computer and go for a walk, hug a child, pet your cat or smell a flower. In most cases once you get riled up your ability to listen well will decrease exponentially and increase the chance of a real problem. It’s not worth it.
- Spend less time in front of the screen – I am not advocating that you abandon your social media campaigns or habits or whatever you call them. I will say this though, if you are involved in screen related communication for stretches of time that compromise your ability to be productive doing it then limit your time. Social media can be draining because you need to pay attention and concentrate to do it well. As humans we have limits. If you are struggling to stay on top of things you will not listen well. Once again, either step away or limit your time there.
- Ask questions more than make statements – This simple technique will help you learn all that you need to know without getting too involved. If you make definitive statements less often their impact will be greater. There is nothing more annoying than the online pontificator that thinks that every thought in their mind will change the course of human history. If they would stop for a minute and read what they say many might be embarrassed by their behavior. Others will care less regardless. It is then up to you to decide if they are worth your time. Maybe you can ask them if they know how annoying they are.
So since I am violating some of my own tenets by rambling on here I am going to stop and ask you what do you think makes a good online listener and what are the benefits of adopting a listeners approach?
FT Takeaway: I write too much at times and need to listen more.