Thursday, November 27, 2008

I Consider "Listening Skills"

I am in another meeting and yet again all the people are talking at once. Then I am in another meeting, and the person who pays us, and who needs to tell us stuff, and who is shy, keeps trying to talk, only to be interrupted. It is up and down and in and out of the meeting room; BlackBerries and laptops; changing the subject etc. The meeting is over and we only know a quarter of what we needed to find out, and we waste a day filling in the gaps.

It is quite unbearable. I am not sure what is worse, this kind of selfish noise, or the passive-aggressive nonsense at the other end, which features one being listened to awfully carefully and nothing actually happening. Still, I am perfect and that means that it is now time for me to write yet another one of my handy 'guides' - guides that, if you have any sense at all, you will print off and stick to your cubicle wall.


1. Do not talk while the other person is talking, i.e. do not interrupt

It is very bad manners, for starters. It also tells them you are not interested in what they are saying, and that you think you are more interesting. It is very frustrating to have to deal with.

If, however, you are irredeemably selfish and only care for your own advancement and point of view, you will be interested to hear that listening to people is usually the best way of gathering information and/or learning things.

2. Not talking is not the same as listening.

For e.g, looking around the room, drawing lovehearts in margin of paper, sighing, checking watch, very obviously not talking (i.e. taking a breath as if about to say something then stopping at last minute) means you are not listening. You are not paying attention and you are still thinking about yourself and what is interesting to you. It is nearly as bad as interrupting, but quieter.

3. Do not go 'yes yes' and then change the subject

Pretending you have listened, then dismissing everything the person has said by merely starting to talk about something else, is as bad as not listening at all.

4. Put your fucking computer/BlackBerry/phone away

If it's that important, you wouldn't be sitting in this meeting, would you? And are you so important and/or busy that you can't turn it off for a bit? More importantly, using any of these devices in a meeting or while you are supposed to be talking to or listening to someone else is the same as shouting YOU ARE A FUCKING COCK AND YOU ARE NOT WORTH LISTENING TO in their face, i.e., very rude.

5. Just because someone is old does not mean they are talking cock

Yes the 'yoot' are all very Gen Y "give me it now I will not work just give it to me it is my right". But also they are shit at listening, which means they do not learn as much as they want to and then they get frustrated with the people with more experience for not giving them more to do. They are often not given more to do as they cannot be trusted not to call the client a cunt, or play on their Wii game throughout a meeting with the Chairman of for e.g. IBM, or do 'texting' non-stop during the middle of a presentation upon which the future of the company depends.

My advice to the young people is have some manners, i.e. do not be rude to people who are older than you etc, and also bear in mind that they might be able to teach you some interesting tricks and stuff. You can ignore the stuff you don't want to hear, but do not snap gum in their faces and (metaphorically) call them Daddy-O.


The words that come out of peoples' mouths are very rarely representative of what they are actually thinking. If you shut up for a bit and listen to them you will find out all kinds of astonishing things, including what they really mean, what kind of person they are, what they want you to do or not do and - astonishingly! - you may also find it interesting and/or useful!

Think before you speak. No, but really. Is what you are about to say going to help in the long run? Is it appropriate? How is it going to make the other person feel? Will it make you feel better for 2 seconds and then plunge you into a world of pain?

Does it really matter? No, but does it?

If you have something you want to say and it pops into your head while the other person is talking, write it down. That way you will not be thinking about it and tempted to interrupt, and you can keep listening to the other person.

Going "mmm mmm" while picking fluff off your lapels is not the same as looking at them in the face and sometimes asking them a question that shows you have heard what they have said and are interested in it.

There is something called 'repeating back' which sounds a bit wank but is good. In it you check that you have understood what they have said to you by going for e.g. "OK so what I'm hearing is ... " and then saying a short version of what you think they have said to you. It is good because it shows you have listened and checks that you have the information right! It is a double-bonus all round.

There are people who have written whole books on this shit and who make many thousands of monies doing seminars or whatever on it. There is no need for that nonsense because at the end of it, all you need to do is not be a rude self-obsessed idiot.

What is also interesting is that these tips will of course help you in your place of work - and they may also help you have more sexual encounters with people you find attractive!!! That is because everyone likes to be listened to, and may of the people described as "sexy" or "charming" or "lovely" are usually just very good at listening. (Which still doesn't explain Andrew Lloyd-Weber, but I'm not sure anything ever will.)


Waffle said...

Monkey, you have just summarised the law school curriculum on "active listening" I had to follow. Except we got to have over-emoting students from RADA pretending to have conveyancing problems to practise on.
Oh, and yours is more entertaining. Obviously.

Z said...

You are, of course, quite right and tell us well, but I think the person chairing the meeting needs to brush up on "chairing skills". Shyness isn't an excuse, if you know you can't hold people's attention then you either need to appoint a chairman who can make everyone else quiet while you speak or else write it all down and give it out, so that at least the information is clear.


See what I mean, Jaywalker? People get paid for this stuff. am considering an alternative career. Z - yes, of course you are right! - but never forget I am very fond of 'exagerrating (sp) for comic effect' in order to make a pointless point of pointlessness.

Z said...

Dear heart, you are always entertaining and right and never pointless.

Anonymous said...

It is all so true and just commonsense. Perhaps you should go for the alternative career - if you put expressed yourself like that you could halve the time we had to spend in seminars and no one would fall asleep.

The blackberry thing is getting particularly annoying here - we have one chief officer who will not stop fiddling with his, and I am getting closer and closer to clouting the rude git.

Megan said...

Monkey you WILL keep saying perfectly reasonable and sensible things as though sense and reason were not rare, rare orchids in this lovely world. My most recent meeting went thusly:

Chair: [is too much, I sum up] Right, so rather than hiring the Very Important Position we desperately need we are allowed to PRETEND to hire for it. I am asked to tell you this is good because it means we are not firing you. I am also asked to pretend this is not a threat all neatly tied up with a little bow of patronage. Discuss.

Person 1: I quite like candy
Person 2: Really? I do also
Person 3: Can we go to lunch?
Person 5: [I will not look at any of you as I have decided to resent everyone I work with. Except you, I like you but that might change tomorrow so just watch it]
Me: So, erm, this is total shit, right?

Chair: Yes.

mike said...

You have Struck A Chord with me on this one.
A *major* chord.
C Major, I think.

WrathofDawn said...

Wait... what?

I wasn't listening.

Anonymous said...

While applauding your exposition, I find myself blaming their mothers.

"Manners, Timothy!"

Welsh Girl said...

I see Monkey mother has been reading her Joyce Grenfell (see - I was listening!).

punxxi said...

huh? huh? what'd you say? i...i...was texting my hunny...

punxxi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

i see that monkeymother has EXCELLENT taste in televisual imagery!

Neil said...

Couldn't agree more. Now if only we'd bring back birching to deal with the problem...

Anonymous said...

Even I think birching's a step too far (unless consensual, of course).

Anonymous said...

Ach, Monkey, you are so much better and cleverer than everyone else. I would definitely print this and pin it up in my cubicle, if only I had not recently been made redundant once again and gone freelance and therefore cubicleless (and, at the mo, workless)... Right now I'm just clamouring to be let into a meeting or two!

However, I'll remember it for when I do get back into a meeting scenario. I particularly love the Daddy-O bit. Don't you miss Tired Dad?


Yes I do miss Tired Dad! But I think he is writing his thing again. I have just decided not to read it because it is good and it depresses me.


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