“I remind myself every morning: nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.” – Larry King
In your everyday work, how tuned in are you to what’s happening around you, what people are saying and how others are behaving? Most people we ask this question of would say – “I’m very aware of what’s happening around me!” Yet when we dig a little deeper, we soon find a slightly different story and most will then admit that maybe they aren’t really as tuned in as they thought (or pretended) they were!
Did you realise that you were just checking your mobile phone in that meeting? Did you see how others responded when you made that ‘joke’? Did you understand what your boss just said to you? Did you see the body language your colleague used when you popped in to their office? Did you realise you just checked your phone again while we were talking?
Modern life is busy. Actually for some it feels a bit chaotic. So we often are too tired, too busy or even (should we say it…?) self-absorbed to truly tune in to what people are saying or doing most of the time.
Yet many don’t realise significant impact of not tuning in.
- Others may actually think you’re rude. Do you check your phone during meetings? This is a classic example of where you might be tuning out and at the same time could be leaving people with the impression that you are rude and disrespectful. Even if you think you are still listening – here’s some big news…you’re not.
- You may just miss out on important information. When you tune out, whether to check your phone, to think about your to-do list, or simply to day-dream, your brain is not accurately receiving all of the information around you. And sometimes that’s completely ok. Sometimes it’s not – you may miss information to help you at work, a family member’s story, or even important signals that could save your life.
- Building and maintaining relationships just got harder. Despite our busy world, humans are still fundamentally designed to be social and make connections. In the workplace, healthy relationships can lead to better productivity, better engagement and even to better stress management. So if we are consistently not tuning in, and others notice this, we could be destroying trust, credibility, respect and ultimately damaging relationships. People want to connect more with those who show an interest in them, than with those who don’t.
So how do we develop better skills at tuning in? Well, it takes time, practice and genuine positive intent. Here are a few tips to help you get started.
- Turn off your phone in meetings
- Make eye contact with the person presenting/speaking with you
- Truly focus on the words and body language others are using
- Pause before you cut someone off in conversation
- Ask questions – be curious! What can you learn from the conversation?
- If your mind is wandering when it shouldn’t, take a deep breath – it does wonders to refocus you
- Monitor how often you talk about yourself versus listening to others, or asking others questions
- Evaluate the quality of your relationships and consider what else you can do to be more positively connected
- Become a great observer – of people’s actions, words and even their environment (it’s amazing what you can learn about someone from the items on their work desk!)
Of course, these suggestions are based on common-sense and not particularly new concepts. They key though is being true to yourself – are you really tuning in to what’s happening around you, or are you only pretending?
Happy tuning in!
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