Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Listening Protocol

This is a fairly simple protocol to follow when listening: smile, sit up, listen, ask questions, nod when spoken to and track with your eyes. For most of us this is something that can be accomplished. Look at the elements and think about some of the things that each might accomplish.

A smile doesn’t seem like much, but it shows recognition of another’s existence and it usually won’t be interpreted as a negative. It may suggest to your mind that understanding this person might be useful making it easier to actually pay attention to what is happening.

Sit Up
This again can be a signal to the other person that you are ready to listen. At the same time it is a signal to yourself that you are about to listen. It also has wide spread implications of body posture. If you are lounging in the sun and you want to demonstrate that you are about to listen, changing your body posture will be a clear signal to all of your refocusing. When an officer enters the presence of soldiers they snap to attention and are thereby ready for any and all orders that might be given.

Ask Questions
OK, so in the military there isn’t a lot of question asking. But, the very fact that they are in the military suggests that the next communication may be extremely important and they might have to act on it immediately. In regular everyday social situations the topics are very likely going to be varied. To be certain that you are “on the same page” as the person doing the communicating, it only makes sense to ask questions about terms and context not currently and clearly understood. Asking questions also reassures the communicator that you are listening, and that you feel understanding is importance.

Nod When Being Spoken To

If you nod you can reassure the communicator that you are indeed listening, seeking to understand and if appropriate, act. A nod is a nonverbal statement being made by you that “we are engaged” in a conversation and with the addition of “ask questions” give the communicator every reason to believe that there can be a meeting of minds or at least further discussion. There is a very wide range of nonverbal communications we can use to participate while listening.

Track With Your Eyes
If, as the listener, you can use nonverbal communication in response to what is being communicated, then it only makes sense that the communicator is “saying” much more than the words your ears can hear. If you aren’t watching the speaker, you miss out on much of what is being said. That’s why so many Moms have insisted that we “look at me when I’m talking to you.” If our eyes are wandering about, then there is an excellent chance that our minds are as well.

If we were to attempt to incorporate this SSLANT protocol into our lives right now and follow it for a couple of weeks we would be astounded at the impact is has on our lives. If you’re already employed there is a very good chance that you wont’ be cut in the next round of layoffs. If there are no layoffs, you may be the one that gets the promotion/raise. That can’t be all bad. In your social/home life you will find that there are fewer “misunderstandings” and maybe even more surprising, more agreements.

Listening is very hard work. Give this a try and see if it improves you life.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Listening Better

The KIPP Academy teaches their students a process that would be wise for everyone to follow: SSLANT. The letters stand for: smile, sit up, listen, ask questions, nod when being spoken to and track with your eyes. If you think about it, what this lesson is teaching is the art of listening. If you follow SSLANT as much as possible you will be headed in the direction of skilled listening.

It really makes no difference who originates the communication, since everyone involved in the communication should be following the same six (6) concepts at all times in order to show proper respect and to properly understand the communication. Members of an audience, where possible and reasonable, can follow the rules and in conversations with your children, significant other, boss and/or fellow employees as well.

Paul Luvera writes in an online column, Plaintiff Trial Lawyer Tips: KIPP students “. . . are taught a protocol called SSLANT. It stands for: smile, sit up, listen, ask questions, nod when being spoken to and track with your eyes. I thought of jury selection where SSLANT would be a very good rule for trial lawyers who do a generally bad job by interrupting, not listening and looking like they are angry.”

Outliers: The Story of Success, a book written by Malcolm Gladwell makes reference to many ideas in his book that sets your mind off in new and stimulating directions. Gladwell points out that the students at the KIPP Academy were chosen to attend by randomn. Put another way, this concept will very likely work for any one of us. We all should give it a try.