by Steve Adubato, PhD
It's rewarding when readers respond to what you write. Questions, comments and even criticism can be valuable. Someone once said feedback is a gift, but only if you are ready to receive it.
Since the column began, I have received some really great gifts of letters, faxes and, most of all, e-mail, especially on the subject of listening. Here's a sampling:
The reader says that most poor listeners are self-centered and that the only word they care about is theirs-they think there is nothing worth listening to.
Insightful stuff. Good listening is about having the right attitude. It's also about having respect for other people and their point of view, even if it differs from yours.
John Santoro works in a refinery where he says everyone is hurried and rushed to perform. They never have time to listen. It's then when you must say, "Slow down and hear what I am saying." Keep it up, John. Your workplace is lucky to have someone like you on board.
Maybe it's true that you can't change people. But I believe you can change behavior if you are exposed to the right set of tools and you become more aware of the impact that your less-than-adequate listening skills might be having on your relationships with others. I also would suggest that you focus on what you can do to improve your listening skills. That's all you can control.
I picked up that book last week. Just started it. So far it has been quite helpful. Thanks. Carol Castellano writes and asks if I have read "Primary Colors," in which she says that the author describes Bill Clinton's great listening ability, the way he looks into a person's eyes, leans in, etc. He calls it putting on the big ears. It's a great description.
Carol, you are so right. Clinton is a great listener (or at least he appears to be) and it has paid off for him politically. What is called putting on the big ears in Bill Clinton's case is what I call going into listening mode. The key is to make a decision to listen and then to do it.
Angela (a.k.a. SwtNPretty) responds to my piece offering 10 tips on better listening, saying, "Here I thought I was such a great listener. But you definitely brought to my attention some points that can make an even better listener out of me."
That's the key, Angela. You have to be open to new techniques and tools to make you better at this communication stuff. Be like a sponge. Absorb as much new information as you can. But take what you want and leave the rest. Good luck.
Scott Pennington is a teacher at Technology High in Newark. Scott says oral communication competence has just been included in the state's standardized proficiency test. He says, "In order to help my students, as a minimum, they will be required to read your column every week."
I can't think of a better thing for a communication coach or consultant to hear. Thanks, Scott. And thanks to all of you who took the time to write. Sorry I couldn't get to more letters. See you next week.