A University of Missouri study found that 70-80% of the time we are awake we are communicating…reading emails, checking all social media apps, talking to roommates (I love talking to my roommates – my wife and kids), calling friends or colleagues on the phone, speaking or presenting at work, replying to emails or commenting on all of your “likes”. So, when you add all that up, below is a breakdown of how we communicate by percentage:
· 10% writing
· 15% reading
· 30% talking
· 45% listening
We all went to school to learn how to read and write. There are even classes and clubs to practice public speaking (check out Toastmaster’s here). So here lies the problem. We spend all of our time and money practicing to read, write, and talk. BUT, by the percentages, LISTENING takes up the biggest bucket when communicating.
This is where the educational system has failed us. Adults and students alike need help with being better listeners (all the women with husbands or sig others can I get an AMEN?!). My wife and I sometimes like to play this game when we go out on a date night. We’ll get to our seats and look around the restaurant or coffee shop and count how many couples or people sitting together are “locked” into their phones instead of engaging the person across from them…try this the next time you are out. It’s crazy and it needs to stop. Cell phones are great, I love mine, but they are killing social skills and personal engagement for our youth and adults everywhere (especially young people…ENOUGH with the SnapChat already!). Texting is now the number one mode of communication for people under the age of 30 (my own unofficial stat)!
The other day a headline on the cover of Psychology Today caught my eye – it had to do with a “hidden trait” that research has shown to make us more attractive. They got me….I wanted to know. The article discussed how new research reveals that what the author called “mindfulness” – being present, listening, and being attentive to the person you are interacting with increases positive emotions and attractiveness (not just sexual, but you seem more trusting, less judgmental, and caring). The world could use more of this. Think about these kinds of people in your life. The people who master the art of “mindfulness” are the best leaders, have deeper and more meaningful friendships, have healthier marriages and relationship with their kids. Speaking less and actively listening more with your eyes, body language and mind might do a world of good for you….and others.
The goal is to speak less and listen more – ask more questions. When you think about it, when you are in a conversation with someone, in the back of your mind you probably in someway are hoping the conversation turns back to be about you and how awesome you are (I am guilty of this). You love it when the person you are talking with makes the topic of conversation about you or is inquiring about your day, your achievements, and your process. If we know this, why don’t we apply this trick and give the other person what they want (and to take it to the next level…truly care about what they are saying)? This approach will improve your relationships, I guarantee it.
Have you ever been called out? Not just called out, but by someone you admire and respect deeply. This happened to me one time while I was selling pharmaceuticals at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). We were launching a new product, and we had just gotten back from several days of training. I was loaded up with all kinds of awesome data that I knew the doctors needed to hear. At that time, I was in a unique position in my sales role because I worked closely with my specialty sales rep, who was also my uncle (he called on only specialists, while I mainly called on primary care accounts). We were doing a lunch inservice and I was pelting this account with all the new statistics, outcomes, and cool info I just learned. When all the providers left the room, my uncle just went straight for it and said, “You interrupt people.” I said, “What, me, interrupt?” He replied, “Yeah, you interrupted the doctor, you even interrupted me…you really need to work on that.” Wow, wake-up call, big-time.
This feedback was humbling and embarrassing, but needed. This comment upon reflection brought me back to my first interview with GSK. After that initial interview, the recruiter and hiring manager called me back and said, we really like you and your background, but you interrupted us several times. Please work on this during your next round of interviews. Hmmm, now this feedback from my uncle, I knew I needed to make a conscious effort to slow down, pause, let people speak when a question is asked, and trust that silence isn’t always a bad thing.
Since those experiences, this is what I’ve learned, people don’t care what you know until they know that you care. Think about a conversation like a game of tennis. Beautiful tennis is when there is a consistent volley back and forth. The opponent matches tempo, pace, speed, loft, charging the net, retreating back to the back line, all based upon their opponents actions. Are your conversations like this or are you like a tennis ball machine that is firing shots non-stop really fast and hard to one spot (no volleying here)?…we all have that one friend that talks like an auctioneer, where it’s virtually impossible to get a word in. Or are you on the other end of the net from the tennis ball machine standing in the same location, hitting the same shot back over and over?…this would be like giving mindless replies during a conversation like, “yup,” “ah-huh,” “ok.” This is just being lazy.
Another common blunder is when someone is talking to you, and you are figuring out what you are going to say next, instead of concentrating and truly listening to what the person you are talking to is saying…I do this often and I’m working on it…I’m trying to improve my volleying skills.
Here’s another thing, why do people feel like they need to give advice all the time or have a miraculous solution when someone is going through a tough time? Often times we don’t need advice, we just need someone to hang with us, comfort us, and listen to us without judgement. We just need mindfulness; we just need to be loved. One of the most effective ways to love someone is to do nothing but just listen. Put the cell phone down…the emails can wait, checking the most recent Instagram post is not a state of emergency, that text message doesn’t need to be answered now. Living life being present, engaged, and listening is next level type stuff. Now THAT is attractive…I want to hang with those people. I want to be that person.
Those of us with children know that kids do what you do, not what you say. Modeling mindfulness, and listening skills is a vital life skill that they need to succeed. If they see you on your cell phone 24/7 and have to say your name 5 times to get your attention, you are setting them up to emulate that behavior.
Let’s not be that person. Practice and apply making listening and mindfulness a focus in your life and watch your relationships improve, your results at work grow, and in the end, feel a deeper level of happiness and peace. This skill doesn’t happen over-night, we need practice. I know you got it in you. So on your next date night, PUT YOUR CELL PHONE AWAY!