Interpersonal competence is one of the keys to personal and professional success that I discuss in Straight Talk for Success. If you want to become interpersonally competent, you need to do three things. 1) Get to know yourself. Use this self knowledge to better understand others. 2) Build strong relationships with the important people in your life. 3) Resolve conflict positively and in a manner than enhances, not detracts from your relationships.
I’ve been blogging about my forthcoming book 42 Rules to Jumpstart Your Professional Success. The other day, I got an email from a friend asking if I have forgotten about Straight Talk. Not at all. In fact, here’s a little piece on listening that appears in Straight Talk for Success. It focuses on the importance of listening in becoming interpersonally competent…
I read a lot. I sometimes find great information in unexpected places. Tony Hillerman and Andrew Vachss are two of my favorite novelists. To my great sorrow, Tony Hillerman passed away last year. He wrote mysteries set on the Navajo reservation in the American southwest. Vachss writes tough-guy mysteries, most of them set in New York.
I was reading a Hillerman book called Coyote Waits and came across this passage:
Jacobs was silent for a while, thinking about it, her face full of sympathy. She was a talented listener. He had noticed it before. She had all her antennae out, focused on the speaker. The world was shut out. Nothing mattered but the words she was hearing. Listening was ingrained in Navajo culture. One didn’t interrupt. One waited until the speaker was finished, gave him a moment or two to consider additions, footnotes or amendments, before he responded. But even Navajos listened impatiently. Not really listening, but framing their reply. Jean Jacobs really listened. It was flattery, and Chee knew it, but it had its effect.
I have great respect for my books and usually don’t dog-ear them to mark a page. But I dog-eared this page. I knew I would use it when I was writing about listening.
What’s the message in the Hillerman passage above? Listen. Don’t interrupt. Let the other person finish. Don’t start deciding what you’re going to say until after you’ve listened to, and thought about, what the other person has said. Pretty good stuff to find in a middle of a mystery novel.
Andrew Vachss has another passage on good listening. Burke is one of Vachss’ characters. He is a tough guy, but listening is one of his strong suits. He says:
It’s not hard to get some people to talk; it’s listening that takes real skill. You can’t just shift to recorder mode until you confirm the channel is open and the signal is strong. Sometimes, they just need to tell you something important to them before they tell you anything important to you. It’s like uncorking a bottle of wine and letting it breathe before you have a taste.
Burke’s message is pretty clear, too. Focus on the other person. Let him or her take the lead. If you’re patient, you’ll get the information you want and/or need.
You might find it odd that I’m dispensing listening advice based on what I’ve read in mystery novels. However, one of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of High Effective People is, "Seek first to understand, then to be understood." Hillerman and Vachss are saying the same thing – in a more poetic style. Listen and you will better understand others. When you understand others it’s a lot easier to build strong relationships with them.
The common sense point here is clear. Successful people are interpersonally competent. Interpersonally competent people build and maintain solid, long lasting relationships with the important people in their lives. Listening is key to relationship building and becoming interpersonally competent. Focusing on the other person – really paying attention to what he or she is saying – is key to listening.
That’s my take on interpersonal competence and listening. What’s yours? Who is the best listener you know. Leave a comment giving a shout out to him or her. As always, I thank you for using your very precious time to read this post.