Two Ears, One Mouth
Two Ears, One Mouth
Many a man would rather you heard his story than granted his request.
The importance of good relationships for the success of a business can be expressed many ways. Perhaps you believe that successful business is built on good relationships. Maybe you choose to describe relationships as the “key” to success in business or even the #1 most important key. Perhaps, this quote from President Theodore Roosevelt lands with you: “The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.” Whatever source you choose to follow, there is broad consensus that if you want to have a successful business, you will need to build and maintain successful relationships.
Well surely if this is the case, then business school curricula must be overrun with opportunities to build the necessary skills to create those relationships right? And surely, business lawyers whose work involves formalizing business relationships and guiding those relationships through conflict, they receive a lot of mandatory training on such skills right? Historically, that’s not the case. Whether that stems from the highly industrialized view of business and the role of people in business or the fact that relationship skills are harder to master than most people realize, there has historically been very little attention paid to such skills in formal business education. Definitely, within the legal profession there is virtually no attention paid to how lawyers can and should aid their clients in developing stronger relationships.
Why is there such a gap between the recognition of the importance of relationships in business and the development of skills necessary to build and maintain such relationships? There are probably many answers to that question, but the one that makes a lot of sense to me is that relationship building skills involve things like talking about your feelings, and that’s an intimidating thing for a lot of people to do. Other people may think that good relationship skills are something people either have or they don’t, they aren’t skills that can be learned.
But that last idea just isn’t true. I’ve seen the examples of how with the right intention, and the willingness to put in the effort, people can do things like increase their emotional intelligence, or their ability to empathize, or their ability to ask questions that help them understand other people better. Indeed, through my work in helping organizations build highly effective teams, I’ve helped teach them! And what I want to do going forward for readers of this blog is to help you build these muscles for yourself. Going forward, most of the posts here will deal with practical tips that you can (if you choose to put in the work) use to up your relationship developing muscles. So let’s jump into tip number 1 shall we? It has to do with one of the most basic skills that can help you build those kinds of relationships that can drive the success of your business – listening.
Now maybe you’re saying, “listening, what’s so hard about that?” After all it’s not like you have to make a conscious decision to activate your hearing. There is no on/off switch for your ears, aren’t you always listening when you’re engaged in conversation? Well, you may be doing a certain kind of listening, but not the kind that’s going to help build your relationships. You see, typically, we listen to start planning the next thing we’re going to say. Maybe we hear a person start to tell a story that sounds like something that happened to us, and we start thinking about how we can work our story into the conversation. Or maybe, when we’re in the middle of disagreeing with someone, we listen to what they say for the purpose of formulating our response. This kind of listening does not help build connection between you and the person you’re listening to. If you want to build that connection (and connection is the fundamental component of relationship) then you need to listen for the purpose of understanding, not for the purpose of responding.
You may now be saying, “well Glenn, that’s all well and good that you say I should listen to understand, but just how do I go about doing that?” Like anything else, it takes practice. The more listening to understand that you do, the better you will get at that skill. At the start though, listening to understand can be difficult because that other kind of listening, the kind that is all about figuring out what you want to say next, well that’s what comes naturally to us. There is an easy tool though that will automatically orient your listening more towards understanding. If you want to listen for understanding then listen with this question in mind: “how does this person feel about what they’re talking about?”
By putting your attention on the speaker’s feelings you automatically take the focus of your listening off of you and on to the other person. That attention on the other is a first important step in generating more understanding. Then by orienting that attention around the question of what the other person is feeling, you automatically adopt an attitude of curiosity about the other. Putting your attention on someone else with curiosity is the way you start down the path of understanding!
That’s it, keeping a single question in your mind and being genuinely curious about the answer to that question will automatically, up your listening skills! Sooner or later though, that person’s going to stop talking and it will be your turn in the conversation. In the next post, I’ll give you some more simple easy to apply tips that will help you continue that drive towards understanding, even when it is your turn to talk.
The Conscious Business Lawyer
Glenn Meier, Esq.
Conscious Business Lawyer
"I'm at my best," Glenn notes, "when I’m helping my clients make their business relationships work better. Sometimes that means helping them build the relationship from scratch and sometimes it means helping them restore a damaged relationship. Regardless of the entry point, I work with people to strengthen those relationships and design legal agreements that support them."
Mr. Meier is a shareholder with the Las Vegas Law firm of Holley, Driggs, Walch Fine, Puzey, & Thompson. All engagements for services discussed on this site are contracted through the Holley Driggs firm.
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