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Be a Better Listener

How often are you in conversation with one person or a group and you get distracted? You think, “Did I send that email? Is that presentation good to go? The shoe repair guy called & my boots are ready.”

You’re probably not asking yourself all those questions simultaneously, but you’re definitely not fully listening. You’re not “in” the conversation. Add, texts and tweets and regular noises, and it’s hard to stay present and listen.

I wanted to become a better listener, so my friend, Lisa suggested, Improv.

She took classes and said a big take-away is learning to be in-the-moment, fully present to whatever is happening, because you have to react.

Here’s an exercise from my Improv class.

We pair up. Liz is my partner. We take turns giving one word to create a story for three-minutes. For example, Dinosaurs Shower Before Running Marathons in July.

It’s nonsense and pretty easy until you get distracted. You think, “Mary and George are laughing. We should be funnier. . .Brent gave a great word. I’ll use that one.” All these thoughts distract me while I’m trying to give Liz a NEW word AND listen to hers.

Finally, 3-minutes is up.

Patrick, our instructor, says, “Ok. The person with the shortest hair, (that would be me) give your synopsis. I froze. I couldn’t remember it because I wasn’t really listening to Liz. Then, I got rattled because I had to speak for both of us and tell the whole class about a story I couldn’t remember.

When you REALLY listen to other people, it’s fun, interesting, thought provoking, challenging, and polite.

And when you listen without worrying about what YOU’RE going to say next or whether other people are smarter or more cleaver, it takes the pressure off of you. You can be in-the-moment.

For the next 30-days, practice focusing on the person right in front of you, as if they are the most important person in the room. And they are.

And, take the advice of actress, Jessica Lange, at a college commencement speech:

“Be present and open to the moment that is unfolding before you. Because, ultimately, your life is made up of moments. So, don’t miss them by being lost in the past or anticipating the future. Don’t be absent from your own life.”

Be present and THAT builds confidence.

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