I realised a couple of weeks ago while pairing with a colleague that I’ve become quite bad at interrupting people while they’re speaking.
I did have an inkling that I’d let my ability to properly listen to someone drift a bit but I hadn’t seen any evidence until my colleague pointed it out.
Somewhat ironically I actually wrote a post about active listening when I first started working at ThoughtWorks in 2006 and reading back over the listening barriers that I listed I realise that there are a few that I tend to break:
Filling-in: You don’t let the other person finish her sentence; instead you finish it for her.
Daydreaming: You get triggered by something the other person says and you’re off in your own world. You don’t have a clue what the person said to you.
Rehearsing: Rather than listening, you are mentally preparing what you are going to say. You might look interested, but you’re really concentrating on planning how you’re going to respond.
I find it really hard to understand what someone is saying purely by the words so I create images in my head based on what’s being said.
My tendency is then to just say what I’m thinking without actually realising that I’m going to interrupt the other person.
Of course that’s because I wasn’t totally listening because I was visualising what they were saying.
I feel that I still need to do this in order to understand what someone is talking about but I’m practicing keeping my thoughts to myself and then vocalising them if necessary when the other person has finished speaking.
The challenge for me is that when I try really hard to not break any of these barriers I’ll often end up being pretty silent when the person is speaking to the point where it might seem that I’m not interested in what they’re saying.