Listen up!

I recently spent several hours seething with irritation and frustration. I was stuck in a room with a man who kept asking the group “does anyone have any questions or comments” before promptly then moving on, without even giving a nano second for any of us to open our mouths, let alone form any words.

And I had so many questions that I wanted to ask to find out more!

I arrived an interested and willing participant but he wound me up so much with his verbosity (a total inability to ever shut up and listen) that I eventually stopped listening and allowed my mind to drift instead towards the fun evening out I had planned.

I did though ‘switch back in’ as he was winding up. Just in time to hear him say “I’m sure you have all got a lot out of this session, and learnt a lot”.

Well… whilst nodding my head up and down in assent (how ridiculously unassertive and ‘sheep like’ of me), this is the inner explosion that was taking place:

Stupid man; I’m going to blog about him; He’s wasted my time; Awful trainer; Only interested in himself; What a wasted opportunity; Totally frustrating; Hope I never see him again…

Stewed up and stressed out does not begin to explain how he made me feel.

Ridiculous. And I know I should not have allowed him to wind me up or stress me out but what’s interesting though is:

  • his inability to stop and listen didn’t just limit my learning, it caused me to choose to not listen and learn at all.
  • he created stress when no stress was needed at all.
  • even though he was a trainer he couldn’t see that the session wasn’t just about him.
  • he failed to grasp the simple concept that so much of our learning can come from other delegates contributions and sharing of experiences and ideas as much as from the trainer.
  • training which consists of ‘speaking at’ people or ‘telling them’ what they should be thinking or should be doing, is unlikely to change either thinking or behaviours.

Does this remind you of anyone in your management team or any of your trainers?

But rather than hurl insults, perhaps what is needed for those we know have a tendency to commit verbal diarrhoea and verbal bulldozing, is just a reminder session in listening skills. How to listen, how to really hear what people are trying to say, how to give people space to think and reflect and how to value other people’s contributions as much as your own. Just a little refresher training could have such a big impact. And anything that reduces stress in the workplace has surely got to be a good thing.

Any thoughts, comments, ideas please use the comments box below – but please this is not a name ‘em and shame ‘em session – however tempted you may feel!

Interested in refresher sessions on listening skills, questioning skills, giving great feedback, handling sensitive issues, why not ask for details of what training Jaluch can provide.

2 replies added

  1. Steve Skarratt 3 April, 2014 Reply

    This leads into a whole topic around appropriate phraseology. Something I encourage my trainers to do is ask questions appropriately – especially when checking learning. So whilst not strictly addressing the points you make above, if we are to be inclusive it is important to ask questions that encourage meaningful responses and feedback – rather than the “sheepdog” response you mention.

    As an example, after delivery of a key point or issue, asking “does everyone understand xxxxxx?” is not likely to get a useful response unless the learners are confident enough to say ” Actually no, can you just explain xxxx again”. In my experience, few are unless you have the time to build that sort of relationship with them.

    A more effective approach may be to ask the group a specific question relating to the topic and see if anyone can answer.

    Firstly, in my humble opinion, asking if anyone has any questions (even without the not waiting for a response bit), if that is the only checking they did is at best lazy teaching/training. By all means learners should be encouraged to ask questions, but at any time – the trainer can reserve the right to answer later if appropriate – but this should be in addition to the proper checking of learning, to encourage an active approach to teaching and learning.

    There is not enough info in the blog to ascertain whether he did bother to check learning, but given the description of him, it is unlikely. To simply use the question he did, as an indicator of the quality of the job he is doing (by default – “if no one asks, then I must be doing ok”) is bordering on the incompetent.

    Only my view of course, but I will happily defend that viewpoint to all and sundry.

  2. Helen 7 April, 2014 Reply

    Thanks Steve.

    Lazy AND incompetent was my view. A real shame given that I book myself onto very few seminars as time is so precious and that I had such high expectations of this one.

    I would imagine he went home and said something like ‘tick in the box, job done’. Shame he didn’t seek to go home saying ‘yeay – I did a really great job today’.

Leave your comment