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By Mary-Jeanne "MJ" Cabanel, www.mjcabanel.com

Last week, I nearly made the faux pas of huge consequence.  Whilst in a meeting with a big client and two colleagues, an idea popped in my head and I took off running—at the mouth.  And, I might add, totally in the wrong direction from where the client wanted to go.  Luckily, the client who is also a friend, called to check out what I was thinking and to see if we could turn the conversation back to what she really needed.


I wasn’t listening. I was too busy thinking ahead, planning what to say and getting turned on by my own brilliance.  Indeed, studies show that most people only half listen focusing instead on what they will say next rather than hearing the message the person is trying to get across.  They think that in order to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous they must sing for their supper or at least be the most charming person in the living or boardroom.  For the person trying to communicate, all this talk and no listen can be terribly frustrating.

The real secret to being brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous is to listen up. Really listen when other people are speaking with you and hear and understand what they are trying to say.

Here’s how:

•    Put down the telephone, computer, frying pan or garden hose and look at and focus on the person speaking.  Make eye contact and take in what they are saying.
•    Suspend any assumptions or preconceived notions that you might have and aim to understand their point of view.
•    Ask clarifying questions to make sure you understand.
•    Paraphrase to make sure you get it right.
•    Be curious! The person in front of you has something to share.  Whether they are 5 or 95 they are seeking your ear. Let your inquisitive mind find out what they want to tell you.
•    Be generous with your time  – Over the long term, listening will save you time as misunderstandings are avoided and communication is clear.

On the last point, one manager I work with was absolutely terrified to really listen to his team. He was sure they would bring a host of personal issues to the discussion and that he would be cornered like a trapped animal for hours hearing about Great Aunt Rita’s illness or something similarly outside the business mandate.  He was surprised and delighted to learn the opposite.  Once he sat down and really listened to his team, they felt heard and understood.  This translated into greater enthusiasm for what they were doing and more independence as they put their ideas to work. In short order, team members needed the manager less, produced more and were happier and more engaged.  He actually had time on his hands.

Listening is a little like a exercising a muscle, it becomes easier and more fit with use. Like a fit muscle, listening makes one more attractive.  So much so that people will start describing you as brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous without having to hardly open your mouth!  So be warned! Side effects of listening can include: a new job, better relationships, more harmonized family life and engaged teams.



portraitmj150Mary-Jeanne "MJ" Cabanel is a personal and executive coach living in Geneva.  Her passion is helping people unlock their own passions and accompanying them on a personal  and professional journey of discovery and self mastery. MJ's clients come from all over the world and range from individuals to board level executives.

MJ trained with the Coaches Training Institute where she is currently a member of the coaching faculty.  She holds an MBA from Thunderbird Global School of Management and has been a happy expat in France and Switzerland for 20 years.

Website: www.mjcabanel.com

See other articles in MJ's blog in the Careers section of our website.