In our December issue we started a series of short simple
development tips that can substantially improve communication
and interpersonal skills. In the first article we discussed
the potential damage done by the word “but”.
In this second article in the series, we’ll discuss
the antithesis of effective listening; something we call “highjacking”.
Most managers, who have attended workshops and seminars
on leadership skills, have had exposure to the concept of
listening skill. In such settings we discuss the importance
of listening, not only to build positive relationships but
also because if we listen we might learn something. However
one thing I’ve seldom seen discussed in books and workshops
on the topic of listening is an anti-listening habit of which
I’m sure we’ve all been both the perpetrator
and the victim. I call it “highjacking” and here
are a couple of examples:
- Speaker: “I’m really
having difficulty dealing with Jim. He doesn’t seem
to realize that he hurts people’s feelings.”
you know what he said to me this morning?”
- Speaker: “I
had a really great time this weekend. It made me realize
how lucky I am.”
Highjacker: “My weekend was
really boring. Do you know how I spent most of Saturday
you haven’t figured it out, highjacking is the habit
of turning the focus of the conversation onto yourself. What
you’re saying is “That’s enough about you,
let’s talk about me!” As I mentioned earlier,
we all do it, and seldom realize the damage it can do to
a conversation and, over the long term, a relationship.
Do We Highjack?
The reason that so many of us like to jump
in with stories about our own experiences, rather than listen
to those of others, is that we believe that interesting,
popular people are those who can recount interesting experiences.
In fact, it's just the opposite. Those who are seen as interesting
and likable are those who are good listeners. Here’s
an example: A woman was being interviewed about her meeting
with John F Kennedy. She said he was the most interesting
man she had ever met. The interviewer, assuming he had told
her many fascinating stories, asked which she found most
interesting. She replied that he didn’t tell her about
any of his experiences. The reason she found him so fascinating
was that he treated her as if she were the only person in
the room. He was totally absorbed in what she was saying.
So, highjacking does little for our popularity, good listening
on the other hand does wonders.
What To Do Instead
really interested in what a person is saying, we usually
want more detail. So, instead of highjacking, ask a question.
If she tells you she is having problems with Jim, ask her
for detail and examples. If he had a great weekend, ask him
what he did, and what made him realize how fortunate he is.
Never Speak About Ourselves?
There are times when turning
the conversation towards one’s own experiences is appropriate
and useful. Once you have asked questions, heard some detail
and shown interest, if your experience helps the other person
you can bring it up. So, with the “Difficult Jim” example,
when you’ve asked for detail, asked if the person has
ever talked to Jim about it, then you might say, “Let
me tell you how I dealt with a similar problem, it might
help you with Jim.”
Whenever I hear the
phrase “Listening Skills”, I think it’s
a bit of a misnomer. Listening is more about attitude than
skill, and the faulty attitude in this case is “I can
contribute to my image and to this conversation by turning
the focus to myself.” Once you’ve convinced
yourself that the opposite is true, then you’ll become
attuned to the temptation to highjack, and to more productive
listening habits. You may never become a JFK, but you’ll
be moving in the right direction.
For more information