Most people have 2 modes of communication: talking and waiting to talk some more. Very few people are good at listening. I owe a great debt to my friend Joe Denner and the training he facilitated with the Center for Coaching Excellence. A huge piece of the training is about becoming a good listener.
Not all listening is equal. There are three main categories of listening.
The first category really isn’t listening. It is really just waiting for enough noise to stop in order to start talking. No thought is given to what the other person is communicating. The time the other person is talking is given to formulating what will be said once the person stops.
The second category is self-perceived listening. This type of listening filters what someone is saying solely through one’s own perspective, opinion, and experience. It still lacks a curiosity about the other person as a person. Everyone injects autobiographically to an extent. It is part of the way humans are wired. It can’t be helped. It can be complemented though with a third category of listening.
The third category is what I call dead cat listening. You’ve heard the saying, “Curiosity killed the cat.” I have no idea what is meant by that phrase, but I think it’s a warning. Well, I think we should want a dead cat as a result of our conversations. I would submit the best listening is the result of curiosity. One must be curious to know more about the other person and what is being said. If we have to engage in feline homicide to get into this third category of listening, so be it.
[My apologies to all the cat lovers repulsed by my hyperbole.]
Curiosity naturally involves asking questions. Dead cat listening needs dead cat questions. This takes work. It is work to resist being an incessant teller—always the one doing the talking. It is also work to study, learn, and incorporate great questions.
That is my challenge to you: research some great, curious, dead-cat questions. Then ask them! An early mentor of renowned researcher and author Jim Collins told him he seemed more interested in being interesting than being interested. That sparked Collins to strive personally for a 2:1 question to statement ratio.
Are you more concerned that when people walk away they are thinking, “My, what an interesting person”? Or, would you rather have someone think, “They seemed so interested in me, they made me feel interesting!”?
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