“I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I'm going to learn, I must do it by listening”.
In today’s society we can obtain answers immediately to almost any question we may have. Research that once took me tedious hours in the library is now done in minutes through a Google search or by asking Siri on the IPhone. The down side to this digital age is that so much time is now spent on electronic communication that our verbal communication and listening skills have been compromised to some degree.
Growing up I felt good about myself when I came home from school and sat outside talking to my grandfather about my day. He was a great listener. I do not remember him giving me much advice but I seemed to get the answers for myself as he listened to me. Some of life’s biggest lessons are learned outside of the structured educational system. My grandfather was a simple uneducated man but what he taught me by being a good listener helped me in my sales career.
When I visited with a customer I always tried to listen to what was being said beneath the surface talk. I learned very quickly that it mattered little how much I contributed to the talk of the winning football teams, golf games, etc., the things I didn’t know much about. I just listened, nodded, and eventually the conversation gravitated to their concerns in their businesses. Then I knew I could offer a positive solution. A particular example comes to mind. In the course of our typically casual conversation one customer casually mentioned that he was worried that he would lose many of his lifetime truck drivers. He said they were excellent drivers but now they would have to pass a test and get certified. I left that meeting, did some research and learned there was a video training program to help drivers pass the written test. I convinced my company to purchase the videos. I offered this customer my time and resources to show these videos to their drivers over a three-week period. When the program was finished I gave each driver a certificate acknowledging the completion of the training. This gave them a sense of pride and confidence and the majority passed the test. I was able to implement this service with many other customers.
Just as I appreciated being listened to and learned from my grandfather I feel the same way when our grandchildren listen to me about all the tools I use from my toolbox that help me live life to the fullest.
Several years ago I was telling my grandson Sam about my story when I was a little boy his age. Sam is a sensitive caring young boy who is a fantastic listener. I love telling him my stories because I always sense he hears what I am saying. I told him we did not have television but we listened to the radio. I said we did not have air-conditioning but we did have an attic fan and slept with the windows open. He sat and listened without saying a word and when I finished he asked, “Pops did you have a real house to live in and a real bed to sleep in?” Passing our story along to our grandchildren is a priceless gift, a blessing.
Not everyone has grandchildren but listening is a developed skill that is valuable to everyone regardless of age. This week you may want to make a conscious effort of not thinking about what you want to say in conversations but ask questions to the person you are talking to so that you can listen and learn from their story. This may offer an opportunity to follow up with a book, CD or other material on that subject that would be beneficial to them.