A while ago, I attended Sunni Brown’s Visual Note-taking 101 class. A creative director, author, and graphic recorder, Brown covered the basics, such as how to plan out one’s page for visual notes, the various ways to draw people quickly, what colors work best for highlighting text or making points, and typography. But a point that has really remained with me since I took the class is about an often overlooked exercise: listening.
“When we listen to someone, we honor their humanity,” Brown said.
She reminded students that all people have stories to share. Everyone wants to share something—whether the story is about what has happened to them, what they have learned, what they are concerned about, and so on. In listening to someone, we honor the person.
The comment she made, in the Listening session of her course, made me think of how underemployed (and undervalued) the skill of listening is. How often are people really listening to one another?
Here’s a list of some places where more listening can really deepen your relationships with your audience and colleagues.
Social Media Listening Dashboard
We refer to a social “listening” dashboard when we check out all our social networks to see what people are saying. However, many businesses aren’t really listening at all. They’re skimming conversations only to see who is referring to them. They want to see their name mentioned and in what context. That’s valuable, of course, but the conversations happening among your audience doesn’t always refer to you.
If everyone is talking about a subject that matters to them, you might overlook it because you are too busy just looking for specific references or keywords related to you. So, take time to really read what is being said by your customers, what your audience cares about, what they want to talk about… and then think about what you can offer them.
Blog or Website
Some blogs teem with comments. Everyone’s got something to say! And everyone’s replying to one another’s comments and so forth. Other blogs seem to be nothing but someone standing on the corner, shouting at cars as they drive by. People shouting from the sidewalks don’t engage in conversations; they don’t listen to replies. And if your blog or website features that type of one-way communication, visitors won’t waste time talking to you. So, learn to listen. Really listen to what people say when they say it, whether on your blog or website.
A huge complaint people have about work life in general is about the number of meetings they attend or how long they are. But listening—really listening—won’t make those long meetings any longer. If anything, listening can make meetings shorter.
How? Because if you have a room full of people who listen, they won’t all ask the same question a hundred times. Or they will makes comments and questions that have to do with the actual subject. Whether offline or virtual, meetings benefit from people who are actively listening to what is being said—not multitasking or answering emails or thinking about what they are going to say.
When we work on our listening skills, we really do honor the humanity in someone else. We honor the time they are taking to speak with us, we honor the story they share, and we honor the interaction with another fellow being on this planet. Everyone has a story to share, a life they are leading, and in listening. Let’s pay attention to other people on this journey.
Are you making an effort to listen to the people with whom you interact daily?