There is a difference between listening and just waiting to speak. You can spot people doing either. Some people don’t listen at all, just are silent until they decide to speak. Other people may interrupt – how annoying! – but actually they may listen more than the silent and polite.
‘Interrupting’ has a cultural connotation. The conventional wisdom is that this is rude. And it is, in Anglo-Saxon context for sure. In other cultures, it is more normal and nobody sees it as disrespectful. Conversations overlap and people start talking when the other has not even finished the sentence. And in those countries, last time I checked, the sky is not falling.
After many years in organizational consulting, I can spot who is listening or not. The management team at the back of the meeting room, secluded from the rest of delegates, looking at their laptops/blackberries/iPhone and nodding and smiling, are not listening. Actually, this ‘show of support’ by being in the room ‘despite their busy schedules’, is a waste of time and an insult to the imagination. Their engagement has the strength of a cream cake.
Other politically incorrect ‘interrupters’, as much as they are a pain, may be listening big time, and engaged fully.
Don’t judge listening by the amount of silence or the amount of interruptions. Suspend judgment. Get behind what you see and hear, what people do.
The test of listening is not what is not said but the meaningful conversion, or lack of, that follows in the room
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