"And the beat goes on................."
"People hearing, without listening...."Paul Simon, The Sounds of Silence
Listening skills are among the most valuable attributes anyone - and not just leaders - can have, and, unfortunately, among the least developed and applied. Many, if not most of us, far too often don't really pay attention to truly and fully understanding what is being said around us. We just don't really listen well.
"A man hears what he wants to hear, and disregards the rest."Paul Simon, The Boxer
Does this sound at all familiar? You are at a conference, in some session with a topic of interest to you, and about which you have some extent of knowledge and experience. The session is arranged as one of those interactions, where the chairs in the meeting room are arranged in a circle, and everybody is encouraged to participate in an ongoing discussion. Sometimes with structure, sometimes more like a free-for-all. And as someone is talking, and hopefully actually making a point rather than just monopolizing the floor to hear themselves talk, and that person isn't twenty seconds into their point, and you find yourself already, in your mind, posing doubts, questions and opinions about what the person is saying, and they haven't even finished yet. And soon you are no longer really listening to them, you are really just waiting for them to finish so you can have your turn.
We have opinions - strong opinions. And ideas and thinking about nearly everything. And often times those pre-conceived thoughts and biases get in the way of our expanding our knowledge, learning something new, and entertaining possible great ideas and solutions for which we've been looking -- knowledge, ideas and solutions that might be out there, but we can't hear them because we aren't really listening.
"Most people do not listen with the intent to understand. They listen with the intent to reply."Steven Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly
The Three Minute Rule says simply that when listening to someone else express their ideas and opinions, you need to try to really listen to what they are saying without forming any mental reaction, and without interrupting them with questions or your analysis of the faults of their argument - for three minutes.
Give them a chance to put out there what they are trying to get across. LISTEN.
This is, in part, an issue of fairness: fairness to the other person, and fairness to yourself. It isn't always easy to do, because sometimes you can't avoid the feeling that you are suffering fools needlessly. But be careful, others may have the same opinion of you. Trying to apply the Three Minute Rule is a way to help you improve and refine your listening skills. And that is important if you are to reach your own potential as a leader, not just because it helps you to understand things better, but also because it helps you in your relationships with your co-workers and colleagues.
If you can train your mind not to instantly go into the reactive mode to what someone is saying; not to form questions or doubts designed to undermine what is being offered, you can improve your listening ability and very likely end up hearing a lot of things that you will find valuable and important. Not everything, because a lot of times people are who are talking to us aren't seriously trying to make a point -- and so after three minutes you can move on.
And yes, sometimes three minutes might be too much, but try it anyway, or some variation thereof, as a way, if nothing else, to force you to focus on your listening ability.
Have a great week.