from the Blog

Learning by Observing – Communication


Speaking and hearing come to us naturally, starting as toddlers.

Listen - AttentionCommunication is one of our basic skills. Most would agree that increasing the effectiveness of this one skill could greatly enhance your business and personal success.

We should be very intentional about the effectiveness of our communication. I have read the books, but thought I would spend some time observing – people watching – to see how it is done.

Here are a few of my observations – my bet is these will resonate with most who are reading this.

  • A couple sitting across the table at a restaurant – both with heads down focusing on their cell phones. 
  • Four gentlemen sitting at McDonalds having a lively conversation, raised voices, soft voices, only referring to their phones when they need to Google the scores from last nights games to solve a disagreement. (I wanted to join these guys)

  •  A mom and a youngster sitting at a table – mom’s cell phone having higher priority than a one on one conversation. It wasn’t one sided — the youngster was playing a game on a tablet. Neither ever looked up.
  • A grandma listening to a four year old girl carrying on with nary a breathe about her perspectives on the moon and stars. And grandma with an occasional shake of the head – no doubt in absolute wonderment – and a simple ‘what shape do the stars make?’ to keep the conversation going if there was a pause. (I wanted to join this conversation too . . . )

  •  A new car salesman that has a sore throat before 3:00 pm from all of the brand and feature touting.
  • A seasoned car salesman that is attentive, but relaxed, asking questions, the next question building on information gleaned from the previous.
  • A service manager that was all about business, all about the process, efficient and precise, all the time looking past me to something or somebody else across the room.

  •  A meeting where there was no silence – every moment was filled with ‘noise’.
  • A very engaging group conversation with moments of pause – no conversation – participants reflecting on what was being said and allowing the speaker to finish his/her thoughts, even if delayed.

  •  A supervisor and employee ‘engaged’ in a conversation – the supervisor doing 80% of he talking – the employee sitting back (without a notepad – one of my pet peeves).
  • A supervisor briefing a team member on a new project – a volley of questions (both ways) to verify understanding – each leaning in showing interest.

  •  A person continually cutting in — to tell their story.

  •  A two minute phone conversation telling a prospective client that you can’t help them for two weeks because your going on vacation and passing them off to the next guy.
  • A short phone conversation (and follow up email) with a prospect briefly discussing their needs, identifying from them that a three week time delay will not be an issue, earning their business, and respect.

  •  A busboy focused on cleaning tables. Efficient – bored – can’t wait for the shift to end, and telling anyone who will listen.
  • A busgirl reaching out to seated customers, engaging them in brief conversations – a smile on her face – cleaning twice as many tables as the busboy, and smiling the whole time.


People Watching is Fun

Isn’t it amazing the things we see in others, and overlook in ourselves.

As you read the above – have you seen these conversations? Were you in these conversations?

  • How am I listening? Effective listening is different than merely hearing. Listening is about focus and to do it well takes effort.
  • What is my body language saying? Am I picking up on the body language of others in the conversation? Important non-verbal messages are conveyed through the eyes, gestures, and facial expressions.
  • Am I effective in how I use changes in volume and subtle inflections to enhance the conversation?
  • Do I have some personal quirks that are detracting from the message, either verbal or visual? Is my listening being distracted by the mannerisms of others. Hearing the conversation over accents and personal mannerisms requires intense focus.

After a little people watching I have some ideas on how I might improve my communication. Any ideas on your side?

. . . go have an Awesome Week!

Tom Trabue