Ever have a long work meeting where you have to speak and listen for anywhere between 2-8 hours? Yeah, I know that sounds awful, but I know these meetings are all too common. Chances are you get nervous about speaking during the meeting when it involves many people (10 or more peers or bosses), but the the hardest part about the meeting is the listening part. The best communicators look like the guy to the left and are the best listeners during the meeting. Next time you are in this situation, focus and watch/listen/feel what you hear and see. This is hard to do, but will pay off when it is your turn to speak. Most people try to listen during the meeting, but many are thinking about what they will say next instead of listening to what is being said.
Don’t be too quiet though. If you are too quiet, you will be labeled as someone that is not participating or aloof. I have fallen victim to this label. Focus on listening, then speak. Balance your speaking to listening ratio. I’m not sure what the balance ratio is, I see it as more of a feeling. You will know its right when you start seeing head nods in agreement and you know something about every topic that is being discussed during the meeting. A label can also be placed on people who talk too damn much during a meeting. They are perceived as know it alls. In some cultures, these people get falsely labeled as leaders and then promoted. This mistake is a scary one.
Same can be said about swinging a racket at tennis ball or blogging. Both take focus and concentration. Bloggers have to participate in other bloggers conversations more than posting new stuff. Tennis players have to focus on watching the ball before they can hit the ball or the next ball. Your next meeting, look around the room and see who is listening and who is pretending or checked out. Their faces and body language won’t lie. Don’t worry about them. You can only control you. Listen to what people are saying. Listen to your breathing. Get in the moment because your life is in that meeting at the moment. In a meeting with people who don’t listen.
It’s easier to speak than listen. It’s easier to swing at a tennis ball than watch the ball. Practice the hard stuff, watching and listening. The rest will come.