This is not another post about why you need to shut up and listen. Not all of us talk all the time. Some of us tend to be quiet, because we are thinking. That’s how we process information. However, the quieter we become, the more you talk. Nature abhors a vacuum. And if you are talkative, you can’t stand the silence. It doesn’t matter whether you are a gregarious engineer or a left-brain sales person or sales engineer.
So you fill it with yakity-yak, hoping you’ll get some attention to whatever it is you have to say.
If you are busy thinking, then you aren’t doing a very good job paying attention to anything external to what’s going on inside your head. It could be that the person who is doing the talking engaged you – non-verbally. They set off a thought pattern that completely takes over your brain! So you are still there, and the light’s on as you sit across the table, or remain on the phone. But you are not really paying much attention to the noise coming into your ear.
With all this talking at and thinking about, I guess there’s not much listening going on.
Listening requires you to be alert and engaged in what you are hearing. Whether via streaming media or in person. Do you tune in?
Listening requires you to, yes, think. What you hear correlates with what you think you know, so your brain searches for related knowledge. If it comes up blank, then perhaps you have just learned something new. Do you learn when you listen? Or do you not listen, because you think you know it all?
Listening requires you to respond.
If you are a “processor” – which means you tune-out once you seize on a thought – you are doing a great disservice to the speaker. Even if all they are doing is blah-blahing at you. Tell them you just got a great thought based on all the noise that was coming out of them directed at you. Thank them for their time. Get them out of your office. Do some more thinking. They’ve just stimulated your creative juices, even though they may not have “sold” you anything.
If you are the speaker, and you feel like you are talking to a table top, change up your style. Ask questions that require a response – and not a response that is a head nod. If you want a dialogue, start a dialogue. Think about what it takes to get a “processor” type engaged in your business conversation.
If you are a processor-type who enjoys and respects the person who is speaking because they bring out the best in you, stop the conversation once you go off into “processing” mode, tell them that what they just said to you got you thinking about a great idea, write it down so you can chew on it mentally later on, and then ask them to start up the discussion again. That’s a win-win for you both, wouldn’t you say? A slight change in habit.
If you are a sales person who calls on technical folks, those “processor” types, do a bit of homework so your conversation stops sounding like self-serving sales spiel, and instead focuses on how what you have to say is relevant to how the engineer does business. OK. Now I can hear your brain processing. This is easy to do; it’s just not what you’ve been doing. Saying things from the perspective of the listener. It’s a win-win for you both, wouldn’t you say? A slight change in habit.
Do you know a “processor” who might be willing to slightly change his or her habits? Engage them in this exercise.
Let me know what happens.
If you’ve enjoyed this exercise, there are lots more in Do YOU Mean Business? Babette Ten Haken’s book that was named Finalist, Top Sales & Marketing Book – 2012 – a first for a book that talks about engineers and sales people in the same thought.