It is likely a bad sign that I left before the class was officially over, so bored and annoyed that I couldn't cope until the bitter end. Listening is inefficient! And I'm busy! And easily distracted. I like being constantly productive and while I like to think that I'd stop and smell the roses if some nice man sent some to me, I'm not sure that's true.
Still, there were some relevant lessons.
"I've prepared material on Thing That Matters (hence, I'm totally ready and don't need to waste time), but if you'd like to tell me about Stuff You Like (See? I'm pretending I care about your point of view. You like me more now, right?), we can start our discussion with Stuff. (I'm even willing to devote my attention to your topic - a clear benefit to you.)"
Now here is where I struggle. I have a horrible habit of being too far in my head (really!) so I interrupt or being to debate far too early.
[Small tangent -
Sibling is always late, but has been remarkably prompt in the past month or so.
"What happened?" I finally asked when she walked in a meeting a whole 30 seconds before it was due to start.
"I was traveling," she said, immediately understanding my question, "and figured there would be insane traffic and no parking and I knew I needed gas in the rental car. A friend told me to plan on 30 minutes to get there, but I was nervous so I left an hour before my appointment.
"And it was so much easier! There was traffic, but it didn't bother me. I had to search for parking, but I had time to do that. So instead of being stressed and distracted with what excuse I was going to use for being late or what parts of my presentation I'd cut to save time, I was all proud of myself for being early!"
"I always am, too," I told her fondly.
"So I got there, got coffee, put on lipstick and was exactly on time and comfortable. And I realized that being late doesn't just inconvenience other people - it adds stress to me! So I'm trying not to do it anymore."
- end tangent, point being that listening benefits me in that I understand how to manipulate you to do what I want. Therefore, I will try to do it.]
Having decided I'm all about the listening, I want to do it well.
- Ask questions. It will keep me engaged and focused and make sure I'm getting the information I need to win my argument. I especially like "Elaborate on that a little more," and "Why do you say that?"
- Confirm the message. It continues to shock me that I still can hear what I want to hear. Or walk out of meetings to talk with other attendees and realize we walked away with completely different conclusions.
- Only understand. Do not offer solutions to any problems they divulge. Don't argue points - it may make them defensive. Focus only on taking information in and making sense of it.
OK, so now I get it - I have an understanding of your world such as it is. I can develop my plan of attack. I'm going to be clear and concise and try to answer the most critical of your potential objections with factual information. I will use professional expertise, examples and statistics. I will speak slowly and watch carefully for your reactions.
One of the biggest pieces here was that I need to articulate a benefit to you, not just to me. If it sucks to be you in my situation, then I need something you can believe in - it's good for the business/academic institution or children or preserves the ice caps for the polar bears.
I wanted to spend more time on the tricks here - and there are some - in terms of presenting information in a way that's most comfortable for people. One example - when asked a question that requires thought, many people will break eye contact in order to think. I'm going to watch for the very first movement of your eyes.
- You look up and to the right. You're a visual learner. I'm going to use graphics or visual references. (After I listen to your answer! I'm a good listener now, remember?)
- You look down and to the left. You're an auditory learner. I can give you a list of facts and you'll get it.
- You look down, but off in the distance. You're in kinesthetic learner. I should give you something to do, but I can also draw you a picture or tell you a story so you can pretend you're doing it in your sweet, little kinesthetic mind.
More freaking listening.
People who do this well take notes. It helps them not to argue while they listen, ask questions and make sure to understand the emotion or hidden objections behind what's vocalized.
Clarify again. "If we can solve Your Stupid Problem - and I know that we haven't yet, but if we could - is there anything else that would prevent you from doing what I want?
This also uses 'we' which is supposed to make us feel like a team rather than adversaries. (But I'm only on your team if you do what I want.)
Sometimes you'll have to refuse. If you are saying no...
- Don't dawdle. Let people know quickly so they can adjust or find other alternatives.
- Explain why you're saying no, but don't blame someone else. (This is especially important in Industry - it's way better for you to be annoyed with Katie than Industry. We have lots more people we can send if you just think I suck.)
- If there is room for negotiation, make that clear. I like the instructor's comment -
"No, here's why... If you (...), then I (...).
- Sometimes the no can be implied. But do explain why I can't agree with what you said as is.
- Condition upon you doing something I want. (If you)
- Only then will I concede some other point that is equal in value but more attractive for me to offer. (then I)
Assuming we both remain on board and I haven't tried to stab you with a pen because this is taking so ridiculously long, we need to be clear about what we've agreed and any remaining open items. Next steps (hopefully where and when you start doing what I want) are especially important.