“Speak as though the last person in the last row of this 300-person auditorium is wearing hearing aids and wants to hear every word you are speaking,” said our tour guide trainer at the Betty Crocker Kitchen Tours week of training. While this was a college job (meaning a while back), the message has stayed with me: if you want people to hear you, listen to you, and hopefully understand you, you must speak in a manner and volume that gives them the chance to do so.
Speaking clearly and at a volume that can be heard by others is upon each of us as presenters, teachers, mentors, salespeople, parents, spouses, guides, supervisors, and leaders. What people hear and attend to is on them. However, we can present information in ways that helps others to hear and understand with greater accuracy and hopefully greater acceptance and follow-through action.
To hear is to perceive a sound with one’s ear. Consider some of the phrases that use the word “hear” to communicate that someone is listening. “I hear you.” Or “the jury heard the testimony.”
Yet, to listen is to give one’s attention to a sound, and we hope to make meaning of the sound being attended to. To listen implies that we care about what someone is saying enough to work to make sense of it, to determine whether to do something because of it, or to simply listen in support of someone processing something that requires no action from the listener.
When people hear a noise, they may or may not listen to determine what the noise is telling them. Noises and sounds communicate things such as: danger, safety, okay to cross – or not cross – the street, a vehicle is backing up, the dishwasher is done, an oven timer is telling us to get something out of the oven, and all the other “noises” that are signaling us to pay attention and take the appropriate actions.
From hearing we need to move to listening, the act of discerning what to do with what we are hearing. And when the noise changes to words, sentences, and paragraphs giving us direction or providing us with information, our listening skills are required so that we know what actions to take, or not take; what budgets we can spend, or not spend; which people are included on this project and which are not; and all of the other important details that are learned only when we listen.
When what I say is not what you hear, I have a responsibility to help you hear my message. As a listener, you have the responsibility to communicate what you’ve heard so that we know whether we are understanding each other. One of my favorite things to say when I know I’m not understanding someone is “Will you tell me that again using different words please?” This way I have a better sense of what I’m being asked, being told or being asked to do. On occasion, I find myself asking for a third version of what is being said to make sure that I really am following what is being said. Communication is always a two-way street full of speakers and listeners.
When we cannot hear someone else, ask them to speak up, move to a better location to hear them, ask them to “unmute”, or consider getting your own hearing checked. Seriously, sometimes it is not the speaker and it is our own inability to hear – which necessitates a hearing check.
Do you hear what others hear?
Are you hearing something different, that needs clarification?
What are you going to listen to more carefully this week?
Is it time for a hearing test? (Many companies offer the initial hearing test free of charge.) Technologies today allow hearing devices to be app-connected to cell phones with blue-tooth capacity. And, hearing devices are so small, no one will know you are wearing an assistive technology.
Communication skills matter now more than ever. If you are looking for ways to support your team’s development on any front, let’s visit. Jana Kemp 208-367-1701
As the author of seven books, three of which are on use of time and decision-making, Jana has been interviewed by U.S., Canadian, and European programs, and magazines.
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