Some of you might be saying, “But, Sheila… there are manual questions about attentiveness and whether or not someone appeared to be listening.” Fair enough. However, there are no listening contests. No one stands up and evaluates our listening ability.
Despite all that, listening is the single most important skill for effectiveness in all aspects of Toastmasters. Want to be a better evaluator? Listen better. Want to be more effective in a leadership role? Listen better. Want to up your speaking game? Listen up!
Here are three questions to guide you as you improve your listening skills:
What are you listening to? What thoughts are you listening to when you are getting ready to evaluate or speak? Thoughts like, “I hope I don’t forget anything, I wish I hadn’t entered this contest, I’m afraid I’ll stumble over my words,” all interfere with our ability to focus on anyone or anything besides ourselves. At the very least, design a thought that is more positive; i.e, “I speak confidently and confidently.”
What are you listening for? We often listen for opportunities to criticize and blame. Be aware of opportunities to support, encourage, and offer positive tips for improvement.
What are you listening with? We have this wonderful ability to listen with our hearts… to be fully present to others, not mired in our own self-absorptions.
The bottom line: Listening improves when we put aside our inclination to focus only on ourselves and move our focus to our audience. What do they want? What can I give them to enhance their experience at Toastmasters and in life? It is not always about you.
By Sheila Kelly