One of my networkers, Jayne Constantinis has given me food for thought at the beginning of this new year.
She asks, “What is the most important offering we can make for 2018? Should it be the gift of silence? Or to put it another way – listening?”
Jayne has introduced me to Celeste Headlee’s book We Need to Talk in which she discusses how the world is awash with communication, much of it on social media, but less and less conversation. And that at the heart of conversation is the process of listening.
Proper listening, though, not waiting to speak.
Jayne thinks that because we’ve become used to expressing our own ideas/thoughts/feelings/outrage, via the myriad of channels available to us, we’re losing the art of respectfully giving other people space to express their ideas.
Jayne who is a well-known specialist in communication and presentation sees the effect of this all the time. She recalls a group of professionals the other day failed to ‘hear’ the brief for a scripting exercise. They took in the first few words, rushed to craft their response but did not successfully complete the task because they hadn’t listened properly.
“Very often people struggle with confidence issues (in meetings and presentations) because they’re used to being interrupted. Consequently, they belittle their content, rush through it, say too much and never pause.”
From Val: This is especially true with women in a mostly-male group who, faced with the testosterone in the room, can find it difficult to make a point without interruptions. And because of the higher register of women’s voices, males think they speak more than they do! One survey said men decided women in the group spoke 75% of the time whereas it was actually 25%. It could have been more, said one of the business women there, if they’d been allowed to finish what they were saying without being interrupted!
Jayne adds: “People tell me how empowered they feel when colleagues/bosses give them space and time to speak; how they dare to be more concise, to express their ideas, and how confidence thereby soars.
“Working in schools, helping children to develop healthy communication habits, I hear about first-time proper conversations with grandparents, made possible by simply asking a question and then listening!
So perhaps at the start of the new year we can all give the gift of listening and turn it into a habit: listening to a neighbour at the bus stop; to our relatives; to our children; to our partners and to work colleagues who will grow in confidence if we choose to listen more. www.jayneconstantinis.com
Jayne Constantinis is facilitating a free workshop at Lady Val’s Professional Women’s Network lunch in central London on February 28. (details: www.ladyvalnetwork.biz) Her topic: How to get what you want by enhancing your communication skills