It's a Harsh Reality - Listen Up

Nick Harshbarger

Published On: April 24, 2015

Categories: Career 2

If you read my previous #SQLNewBlogger post, "We are all in Sales," I thought it only natural to follow up with what I think is one of the most critical components of effective communication: Listening. My father told me as a child, "You have 2 ears and 1 mouth, that means you should listen twice as much as you talk." For those of you that know me, that is hard! But excellent advice that has never failed me - when I remember to follow it.

Listen Up

Listening, for some people, just doesn't come naturally. Please don't confuse hearing someone and listening. There are many definitions that differentiate the two, but one of my favorites comes from the The University of Minnesota Duluth Student Handbook. "Hearing is simply the act of perceiving sound by the ear. If you are not hearing-impaired, hearing simply happens.

Listening, however, is something you consciously choose to do. Listening requires concentration so that your brain processes meaning from words and sentences. Listening leads to learning. Most people tend to be hard of listening rather than hard of hearing." By this definition, there is no learning without the conscious act of listening.

An important part of our professional and personal communication, is to learn something from those we are communicating with. "What is the problem?" "How can I help you?" "Who has fallen in the well, Lassie?"

Taking this concept to the next level is the art of listening well. In doing my research for this post, I ran across an article by Eugene Raudsepp in the October 1, 1981 edition of Inc. Magazine, titled The Art Of Listening Well. I found it very informative and it spoke straight to the point with a listing of "How To" listen well.

I continued to search for a more recent article. I didn't want to open myself up for the barrage of "Old Jokes." Heck, the Internet wasn't even around yet, most of my colleagues weren't even born in '81, and I was preparing to graduate university. There must be something more recent that I could use. I came back to this article to illustrate how valuable and time tested this advice really is. This article presents 6 suggestions to help become a better listener.

I found suggestion #4 one that I struggle with the most: Listen for ideas, as well as fact. Being a non-technologist in an IT world, I tend to get bogged down in trying to remember and understand facts and details that are not in my area of expertise. In my rush to absorb the facts, so that I can understand the point or concept, I sometimes miss the general idea that the person I am communicating with really intends for me to comprehend.

"Day after day, inside and outside of business, we miss important information because we don't listen with full attention."
  - Eugene Raudsepp

In the fast-paced "Can you hear me now?" world that we all live in, we need to make the effort to truly listen to those we are communicating with. Otherwise, we are not getting the full benefit of the conversations and interactions we are having with clients, co-workers, friends, and family.

Until next time… Live your own Harsh Reality, and I'll live mine.

Nick (@nicharsh) is the Senior Vice President of Cloud Alliances for SentryOne and is responsible for leading the SentryOne relationships with Microsoft, Amazon Web Services, and other cloud providers. Prior to joining SentryOne, Nick was Vice President of National & Strategic Accounts for Dictaphone - Healthcare Division. Previous experience includes sales management positions with Computer Associates, NEC Computer USA, Tegra Varityper, and Heath/Zenith Computer Systems. Nick holds a BA degree in Economics from University of Dayton in Dayton, OH.