Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Secret to Life: Really Listen

Everybody seems to want to know the secret to life...how do I decide on a major? Career? Date? Spouse? How do I raise my children? What path should I take now? It seems to be the same answer...for everything. One word. Listen.

Listen to your heart, your loved ones, your children, your spouse... just listen. Really listen. Many people can hear the words, but I have not met many people who can really listen. Listen to the words, the way they were said, the facial expression, the body language, the hesitations.

I have had many conversation, scientific and otherwise, where the other person is already nodding and asking the next question before I have finished speaking. To really listen and acknowledge that you've heard it, try the fast food rule (taken from "Getting Your Toddler from No to Yes.")
The first thing the counter person does when you order food is to repeat your order.

I will use a very simple example.
Toddler is crying "I don't want to wear my boots!"
Parents usually say "Put on your boots!"
Toddler cries harder. Parent is more frustrated.

Alternative method
Parent just repeats calmly "I see, You do not want to wear boots right now."
Toddler will stop crying because you have acknowledged you listened. You heard them. You hear THEIR wishes.
Then you say "Sweetie, I know you don't want to wear the boots. Why?"
Toddler will usually say something not logical to an adult.
Acknowledge that and add "But it is raining. Your feet will get wet. Do you want to sit in wet feet all day?"
Toddler will then usually say "Ok, I will wear them."
If not, have them try to sit in wet feet that day. Then they will learn, but do not get upset. Stay calm and they will never have that issue again.

Here is an industry science example.

"I do not have the budget for that product." If you were the field scientist, you may want to stop the conversation there.

Alternative method:
"I see. You do not have the budget for our product."
"You see that you can save time, resources and money by using our products."
"So, how we can find a financial plan that will work with your budget? Do you have an upper limit? We can give you a special package. Shall I speak to you supervisor?"

If you really listen, acknowledge that you understand the question or request, and then address their concerns, issues become non issues.

As for life choices such as career, you listen to your heart. What do I want to do to contribute to society? Then you plan the steps by listening to those around you who have experienced it. If you are a paving a new career path, then you may need to talk a variety of people. For me, I listened to my heart, my loved ones, other scientists and my own music teachers to achieve my career goals. Listening is a simple concept, but to so do effectively is sometimes not as easy to accomplish.

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