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Listen up — or pay the career penalty

Monday, March 03, 2014  
Posted by: Barbara Francella
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By Lisa Martin

Most people believe they are listening when others talk. But believing something doesn’t make it real.

We live in a society where it’s not uncommon to read an incoming text or email while sitting across the table from someone. You may find yourself scanning the news while you’re on a conference call or mentally preparing for one meeting while sitting in another one. You might even praise yourself for your ‘multitasking’ talents and supreme levels of efficiency. But at what cost?

Your to-do list might be shorter, but let’s face it, you are sacrificing real moments of human connection that are far more important.

People with strong relationships get farther in life and work, and they’re happier for it. Thriving doesn't come from a completed to-do list. It comes from fully experiencing your life and the people in it. This can’t be done without heartfelt connection.

Related: "After networking: Are your connections working?"

If you are really listening to people (at work, at home or at play), you will hear far more than just what is being said. You will tune into the subtext, which is often far more important. You will hear unspoken concerns and challenges. You will be aware of the hidden interests and talents of people around you.

And you’ll just know people better. It’s one thing to have pleasant, polite relationships. It’s another to see the unique light that shines in each person and to feel a true connection.

So, back to my original question…are you really listening? Here are a few statements to help you see if you are. How true are these statements for you?

  • In conversation, I focus on others and their needs not just my own.
  • I quiet my thoughts when others are speaking.
  • I resist the urge to plan my response when others are speaking.
  • I make sure I've understood what someone has said by confirming it with them (i.e. "So, what I’m hearing you say is…").
  • I consciously listen beneath the surface of what is being said so I can understand unstated concerns.

No matter how strong your current listening skills are, I urge you to take them further. This is a key skill that leads to thriving at work and in life.

Lisa Martin is a leadership coach, speaker and author who has been helping people thrive for the past 15 years.

Views expressed in signed blogs and user comments are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Network of Executive Women or its Officers, Board members and sponsors.

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