Posted by: joannabrandi | February 11, 2011

Listen, Please Listen

Last night while out to dinner, one of my dinner companions carefully and specifically ordered his drink, a bloody Mary. “I’d like it made with plain tomato juice, vodka, and a lime, I don’t want any spices at all, please.” The server took the order and shortly returned with a drink that included the spices. After tasting it my friend said, “Not again! At least 50% of the time I order this drink, it comes to me with spices.  Why don’t they listen?”

He called the server over and started the process all over again, as we waited patiently before sipping ours, to make our customary toast. The second time the drink was perfect. “Nobody listens anymore” he said, “If only people listened well the first time we could avoid a lot of mistakes.” He then preceded to tell us of several other instances, all related to his business dealings, where someone did not listen properly and something had to be re-done a second time because of the miscommunication.

Where do we learn to listen? It’s not a skill actually taught in school, is it? We learn to listen in our primary family situation when we are children. Like many of the things we learned at home, we learned by example. If we were surrounded by people who listened carefully and paid attention, we most likely learned to do the same. If we were surrounded by people who listened while doing other things, while distracted, or half-heartedly, we learned another style of listening. See where I’m going here?

Unless we were exposed to teachers, mentors or relatives that taught us otherwise, we picked up whatever listening habits we grew up with. And that leaves many of us needing a little fine-tuning in the listening department.

Here’s a few tips on tuning up your listening skills:

*Desire it. Want to listen better. You need to have a desire to motivate yourself to slow down and make sure you understood what is being said to you.

*Don’t make assumptions about what the other person is going to say. (And please don’t finish their sentences for them.)

*Concentrate – Focus your attention, all of it, on the person who is speaking.

*Don’t be thinking about your response while the speaker is still speaking

*When the details are important, confirm your understanding of what was said. “So if I heard you correctly..” “Let me make sure I have this..”  “Here’s my understanding..”

*Practice. Like any skill, good listening takes practice. And it takes patience – especially in this fast paced world.

But think about this – there’s a bonus to doing it right. You don’t have to do it over.

PS This great cartoon came from reader Cindy Bland- THANKS Cindy!

I received this little comic the same evening I received your February 11 Blog posting, “Listen, Please Listen.”  It was just too appropriate to not send it to you!  Thanks for the great tips, and enjoy this!
Cindy Bland, CISR




  1. Good reminders, JoAnna! I remember a friend once told me ‘There’s a difference between listening to someone, and waiting for your turn to talk’. Unfortunately, I don’t always actually listen, sometimes I am trying to think of what I will say and formulating my thoughts in my mind while the other person is talking.

    Thanks for the tips on better listening, I am going to be using these from now on 😉

  2. Mack, I know what you mean – it takes a good degree of discipline for me too! I mostly like to be composing what I am going to say next, like most people. I’ve gotten better over time. I think the trick is the desire to truly understand. We all have that ego thing in the way me thinks.

    If you are interested I actually have a long list of listening tips I’ve compiled through the years – about 23 of them I think. Didn’t want to overwhelm with the blog post.
    When you are ready let me know.

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