As a past president and life member for the International Listening Association, I would like to share my notes with you from this year’s convention, held in Albuquerque. The sessions are typically small, intimate and interactive . . . and I am the ONLY one I know of who is using Twitter to provide notes and commentary. As such, it’s really awkward (and potentially rude looking) for me to be typing & tweeting while sessions are going on. So, I decided to use a running Cover It Live session to capture my thoughts AFTER each session is complete. If I see others also using Twitter, I’ll invite them to join me.
How can a nonprofit organization survive without its volunteers? They can’t. It’s critical that we listen to our volunteers.
At both the International Listening Association and the Southern States Communication Association, I shared several best practices on listening to volunteers. The ILA session was recorded live; the audio from that session accompanies the slides in this slidedeck:
What additional examples would you add?
Look through a window, not a mirror. Don’t assume that the person means what you would have meant under similar circumstances.
Interesting approach, isn’t it? Let’s think about how “listening through a window” might work in practice.
As an educator of students in the Millennial Generation, it’s critical that I listen to my students through a window. For years, if I was planning on meeting someone somewhere, I might say, “We’re going to hook up later.” Now if I was to use the same expression in one of my classes at Georgia Southern University, I’d probably be met with snickers (and not the candy bar) from my students. Why? The term “hook up” has changed over the years. This doesn’t mean that I need to use their language, but I do need to be aware how my choice of words may be interpreted.
Wade contends that there are six ways to be a great listener. Rounding out his list are:
- Listen for a theme.
- Recognize that the speaker might not know the real message.
- Subdue your ego.
- Act as if you are listening.
- Use an old investigator’s trick.
In future postings to Listening Matters, I’ll apply many of Wade’s other tips.
So, how can your life change if you listen through a window instead of a mirror? Please share your thoughts by commenting here at Listening Matters.
Note: The following article is based on a reflection exercise faculty members participated in at Poynter Institute’s Teaching Diversity Across the Curriculum conference last week in St. Petersburg, Fla. In small groups, we went to Listening Posts across the city, where we were instructed to observe a culture unlike our own. Dennis, Kym, Earnest and I went to Cho Lon Oriental Market and Mekong Vietnamese Restaurant on 34th Street.
If I were to use one word to describe what I saw and heard today, it would be juxtaposition. There was Trang brand coffee sitting next to the Café du Monde chicory coffee on the shelf in the Cho Lon Oriental Market. A TV showed the Vietnamese version of a telenovella, complete with Vietnamese subtitles, in the corner of Mekong Vietnamese Restaurant, right next door.
We saw something in the refrigerated section that intrigued us. It was something spiky, about the size of a spaghetti squash, in a mesh bag. Kym asked the proprietor what it was. The fruit was durian. It tastes wonderful, but it stinks, he warned us. He even told us of a hotel he went to that warned guests not to bring this fruit into the building. Kym was bold and bought some of the packaged stinky-fruit cookies on the shelf.
Do you want Edible Beef Blood? Try the frozen food section. Dried Black Fungus? That would be in aisle one next to the rice noodles. Pocky? Now, Pocky was something I’d heard of. That’s in the cookie and candy aisle.
In the restaurant, our friendly and helpful server had bleached blond spiky hair, pierced ears and multiple tattoos. Dennis and Earnest changed their initial orders based on our server’s recommendations after we started ordering. I tried the Hot and Sour Soup; it was sweet and spicy, and tasted quite a bit different from the soup of the same name at many Chinese restaurants. I think the lemongrass added a different flavor; I liked it a lot.
A couple came into Mekong with their toddler. “Would you like a high chair?” the server asked. “No, a booster seat would be fine,” was the reply. They ordered lunch. It came with scissors on the plate. As I got up to leave, I felt compelled to talk with them. “What kind of food did you order that needs scissors?” I asked. Both the husband and the wife laughed. “It’s to cut up the noodles for our son.” As I walked away from the table, I realized why they needed scissors. No knives are served with a meal in a Vietnamese (or any other Asian) restaurant.
Next time you’re in St. Petersburg, I’d definitely recommend stopping by Cho Lon Oriental Market and Mekong Vietnamese Restaurant on 34th Street. Take your time while you’re there and get to know the people. You’ll be glad you did.