Are you perceived by others as someone who is always multitasking rather than listening?
(How do you know? Have you asked?)
Is not listening as deeply as you need to having a negative impact on your relationships, at work and elsewhere?
Assumptions affect how we listen. Think about it. Every time you’ve caught yourself not listening to someone else, what was going on? You were probably making an assumption about the person or the content or the value of what they were saying.
I’m not a know-it-all so I won’t pretend like these are the only possibilities. But here are three strong contenders. See what you think and let’s compare notes.
Reason #1: Loud brain
The number one reason in my experience for not listening is Loud Brain. We get so distracted by the noise in our own heads that our loud thinking drowns out the other person’s words. The assumption at work here? That what the other person is saying is not important enough to merit our attention. We’re too busy. We have other things going on. Deadlines. Emails to return. Etc.
People with Loud Brain multitask while “listening.”
Reason #2: Feelings
Another possibility is that we are feeling some kind of way about the speaker or what’s going to be said. That can cause us to settle into our assumptions and stop really listening.
If you’re feeling defensive, you’ll likely be listening for justification of that feeling.
If you’re feeling nervous, you’ll likely be waiting for the hammer to drop.
You get the idea.
We project our emotions out there, which is a form of assumption.
Reason #3: Confidence
Yet another reason could be “Confidence Interference.” Yes, I just made up that term. But the syndrome is real.
When we’re feeling overly confident, we’re sure (we assume) we know what the other person is about to say. This can cause us to check out and only selectively listen.
Conversely, when we’re feeling low in confidence, we’ve got (we assume) something to prove. We’re just listening for a chance to prove our worth and value. That also causes very selective listening.
Only you decide how important this is to you.
Take a deep breath before the next conversation (any conversation).
Really breathe for 15 seconds.
Focus your mind on the other person.
Decide to be present.
Engage with them, actively and empathetically listening.
Stop them immediately if you find your mind wandering.
Listening is a choice. And we can choose to do better.