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Monday
Nov072011

Are you listening?

I have been thinking a lot lately about listening.
Last week, working with my adult acting class, I reminded my students that listening is a physical activity. It takes mental and muscular power to focus on being still enough to absorb what someone else is saying, to mentally travel through his or her thought process, and to understand the message being sent. A scene based on conversation, contrary to some students' initial impressions, is not one in which "nothing happens." It can be the moment when life-changing truth is revealed, decisions are made, bonds are forged. This happens, onstage as in real life, even though a casual observer might perceive this important exchange as "just talking."

Listening, being part of an ongoing communication loop, is the only way to make true connection possible. Otherwise all that verbal output is just chatter, cluttering up our already noisy days. Sometimes it verges on assault. The "used car salesman" approach of highly energetic delivery coupled with a forced cheerfulness is a perversion of leadership technique that I have seen applied by many who should know better.  

If you do not make the space to listen to others, to answer their questions, address their concerns, clarify your position, maybe even modify it after they give you feedback, you are not really communicating. To really listen you need to be unafraid. Ask yourself: so what if I am challenged? Remember, your goal is not to win or to be right, your goal is to get the job done in the most economical/effective/elegant/
excellent/expeditious way possible (and that's just the "e" list).

Something to think about next time you catch yourself not really listening. Or being heard. 

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