Trust Tip 13: Giving Speeches, Listening Skills

Suppose you had to give a speech. To which audience would you rather present?

  1. The National Speakers Association
  2. The International Listening Association
  3. Microsoft

The NSA might sound the most intimidating. Then again, they’d probably empathize.

Microsoft would probably be the worst—doing email and blackberries throughout.

Which makes me think, “hey, the ILA would probably be a great audience!”

Yes, there is such a group (the other two also exist, but that’s another post). Ever wonder where people get those statistics about “X% of what people hear is non-verbal,” or “Y% of people’s time is spent communicating …” You can find it here.

How about a new book titled “Sex, Politics and Religion at the Office.” It’s by John Boogaert and Douglas Noll, who say, “create a sustainable competitive advantage in your company with sex, politics and religion.” Attention-getting title, to be sure, but their thesis also makes sense; organizations that are scared to talk about combustible issues will fail.

A Key Competitive Advantage: Listening

And guess what one key is to that competitive advantage? That’s right, listening. Not a connection I had made by that route before—but I buy it.

But don’t listen to me, google “listening skills” yourself. You’ll get lots of practical advice. Listen for content not style. Engage in eye contact. Mirror body language. Stay active by asking open-ended questions. Sit near the front. Be responsive. Understand your own style. Listen with a purpose. Be interested. Look for non-verbals. And so on.

It’s all good on some level, but here’s my number 1 recommendation—part 1 of a 2-parter. It’s based on the assumption that a lot of what passes for listening is really just waiting for the other person to finish and shut up so we can start looking smart again.

Part 1 is do nothing but pay attention. Nothing. We’re way beyond no blackberries. Don’t think about body language. Don’t think about your next question. Don’t think about the implications of what you’re hearing. Don’t—think. Just. Pay. Attention.

Paying attention is paying respect. Attention is a scarce resource—we all crave it. To pay attention is to give a scarce gift. Empathy, caring, understanding, problem-solving, diplomacy, selling—all start with paying attention. IF you listen by paying attention, others will then pay attention to you—it’s a reciprocity thing. And it is a choice you have the power to make. You don’t have to play that other game.

Part 2 answers, “but how do I stop thinking about all that stuff so that I can pay attention?” Check back in a week for that one; there is an answer.