I was talking to my father on my recent trip to Reno, and he was reflecting upon some lessons he learned in the workplace (back before he retired). He mentioned that at one point in his career, he attended a teambuilding training, and experienced immediate success by implementing some of the lessons he learned.
I asked him what the best thing he learned was, and he replied, “Listening in neutral.”
Ah. Good one. Listening in neutral means really listening, not listening to someone simply as a basis to start formulating your own response.
Dad didn’t realize that he had just provided me with an answer I’d been looking for with regards to networking.
You see, I teach business people to network with a goal, but without an agenda. For the longest time, I had a hard time explaining the difference. I think that “listening in neutral” is a big part of the answer.
The goal of networking is always to connect. Listening in neutral is the first step in connecting. Some thoughts on the benefits of listening, and the danger of not listening:
- In our busy world of interruptions, the simple act of being present and fully listening is a gift. Any time you give someone a gift, the recipient will want to return the favor.
- You can listen for their needs, rather than just pushing your agenda. When you’re pushing your agenda, you’re generally pushing people away.
- When you don’t listen to someone fully, they know it! Not only that, when someone feels they aren’t being heard, toxins are released in their body, according to Dr. Carol McCall of The Institute for Global Listening and Communication. Then they start to associate you with feeling toxic – not a great impression!
With all of this in mind, why on earth wouldn’t we listen fully?
For myself, I used to worry that I’d get so absorbed in listening that I’d forget to introduce my own business to the conversation. What I found is that when I really listen, and am genuinely curious about others, they always become curious about me.
What experiences have you had with listening and networking?