I recently attended a talk given by an extraordinary young man who had a remarkable story to tell. He has traveled the world as a motivational speaker, giving talks to as many as 100,000 people at a time. This guy is a confident, able, dynamic individual. He’s gifted and his mere presence commands attention. For the first 30 minutes of his one-hour presentation this group of about 1,200 people were riveted to the edges of their seats. And then something unexpected happened– he lost the audience and, along with them, all the power and creativity he had been demonstrating up to that point. The problem wasn’t his story or his delivery or his charisima. Quite simply, he stopped listening.
I’m Listening… But Not to You
How can someone stop listening if they are doing the speaking? In this case, the speaker went beyond the limits of what his audience was willing to listen to. In other words, he crossed an invisible line and he didn’t know it. He either forgot or didn’t know to check in to see if his audience was still with him. Creative listening is a gift and, as evidenced above, even the most brilliant orators may not have it. An example of crossing the line that you and I might relate to is the telling of an off-color joke to someone that takes offense– obviously, no permission to go there. Why then, would someone who was offended by an off-color joke laugh at the same joke when told by another person? They laugh because there is now something present that wasn’t there before. What’s present is a relationship. Not just any relationship, but one that is sufficient in size to include an off-color joke.
Dancing with Your Instincts
How do you know what your relationship is with an audience, be it one person or 100? First, you have to be aware that there are two types of listening taking place, yours and theirs, and since you know what your listening is, the best place to start is with theirs. Each of us is equipped with certain abilities to listen creatively. As you walk down a dark street, you see someone in the shadows and something tells you to go in the opposite direction. We call that something, a sense, a feeling, intuition, reading the signs, listening. All of these signs are as reliable as having someone whisper in your ear. When our radar is tuned in, and our instincts are engaged, each of us is able to know exactly what our relationship is with any individual or group.
Dial in Your Own Listening
Knowing what the listening is in a conversation, particularly in a business environment where something is at stake, can mean the difference between closing a sale, getting a promotion or having an idea accepted. Training yourself to be a creative listener requires that you distinguish certain conditions when engaged in a conversation. Start by listening to your own internal dialog, the voice in your head that continuously has opinions, thoughts and judgments about everything. See if you are following your agenda or being diverted by that voice. Use your internal signals, your senses, feelings and intuition, and most importantly, always be authentic. People can smell in-authenticity a mile away. What you will begin to notice when you are present to the listening of others, is that your communications become more powerful, creative and effective.