It happened about a month ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday. I was attending an event and had worked my way over to this gentleman that I really wanted to meet. Bob (not his real name) and I had been having a wonderful conversation for about 4 minutes when a third person joined us.
Neither Bob nor myself had ever met this third individual. She interrupted our conversation and immediately started sharing her story. This story went on and on and on. I patiently waited for her to finish, but that didn’t happen. The story continued as she gave minute details, oblivious to the cues around her. She left no space for the gentleman or myself to say even a word. I hung in there waiting for a turn for at least 10 minutes before it became clear that she was not going to give up control of the situation. I desperately wanted to finish my train of thought with Bob since the interruption had come at a crucial part of our conversation.
Seeing no other choice, I finally mouthed to him that I would be contacting him and he smiled back, trying to make the best of the situation. When I was walking away, I heard her sharing all the big accounts that she had landed- not that this gentleman was in the least bit interested. As I walked out to the car, I pondered why she would have been so blind as to not notice that she had rudely interrupted us. I’m certain that in her mind she was having a conversation. From our perspective, it wasn’t a conversation– it was more like a monologue.
After giving it some thought, I realized that she was so intent on sharing her information that it never occurred to her that it might serve her to do some listening. She might benefit by noticing the subtle cues of the others and attempting to engage them in her conversation. If she allowed others to talk, she might learn a thing or two. In this case, the end result was one where the gentleman felt as if he was being held hostage, waiting for the chance to be released from his imprisonment. If this was an effort to score a client, I can assure you that her attempt was an epic fail.
I know this is an extreme example, but I see many individuals daily in my work that fail to make the grade on their listening skills. They are so intent on relaying their own important message that they forget to actually listen. They fail to remember that focused listening is the key to effective communication. From this, relationships are built.
Listening skills matter in your personal AND professional life. Many successful leaders today attribute their ability to listen as the secret to their success. People want to engage in a conversation, not be on the other end of a monologue. So, when in doubt, be quiet and LISTEN.