There are a lot of different sides of a story based on how you listen. Have you ever been in a meeting, and after debriefing with the team you agree that you all heard the same things but also heard other things completely differently? Why is that? It’s because of the way we listen. We tend to interpret what we hear based on our own experiences and perceptions.
A demonstration of how you listen versus others can happen at home with family and friends. I know I am not the only one. You’re with your family members or friends and you hear the same thing. However, when you discuss it afterwards, it seems as if you were not in the same place at the same time hearing the same thing.
You begin to discuss and realize you have to re-engage to ensure you heard correctly. Obviously, everyone thought they heard it correctly, but this must not have been the case if everyone heard something differently. It may just be a nuance at the time, but that nuance can totally change the outcome of whatever you all discussed.
At work and in sales, how you listen is a big issue. Several people can be in the same meeting and when you leave, you all feel pretty confident of what to do next. But rather quickly, you realize that what you thought was supposed to be the follow-up or action item is totally different than what others thought. You even asked a few questions to validate your understanding but still did not hear things the same as others. Clearly, how you listen is different from how others do.
Sound familiar? The good news is that you should be able to ask people in your firm for clarification. You have built up credibility with them and/or they are easily accessible – they may work in your office, on your floor, in the cube/office next to you, or attend your regular scheduled meetings. But, what if this happens on a sales call? How do you recoup the knowledge especially if it is difficult to get another meeting with a client with whom it took so long to get the first one?
A best practice is to review and agree on all the critical next steps, responsible persons and timing. This is where how you listen becomes critical. If there was any difference in understanding, or if different people heard things differently, then it can be discussed at this point in time to ensure everyone is on the same page. Similarly, you should put it all in writing to make it visually clear and solid.
The point is that many of us have been in a situation in which the way we hear things determines outcomes and next steps. The question is, what are you doing to reconcile how you listen to make sure you get the best result?