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The Human Art of Networking – The 1st Gift: Listening Well

maternetworkergraphicA Master Networker brings a collection of 12 Gifts to bear when building relationships. Over the coming weeks we will explore each of these gifts in depth.
The first gift is manifested from the giving attribute: Genuine Interest. In order to build relationships one must start with a strong curiosity of others. This then proves itself through the generous act of listening well.
But while listening well should be easy, it is not. Frankly, we are not naturally inclined to listen well. But with knowledge and a desire to do better, listening can become a enormous asset.
Key #1: Recognize Your Tendencies 
There are two categories of failing tendencies: the Monkey Mind and the M&M Thief.
The Monkey Mind is that state we often find ourselves in, trying to listen to someone but drifting off somewhere else in our thoughts, leaping from thought to thought as a monkey leaps from branch to branch. Even if we sit down focused entirely on the presenter, the smallest thing: their gestures, their clothes, even their own words may prompt us to start leaping to other branches in our thoughts.
Quieting the mind and controlling this response is not an easy thing.
The M&M Thief is something completely different. Have you ever been to a party where the host has set out bowls with nuts and dried fruit and M&Ms. Then later, an hour into the party, all that are left are nuts and dried fruit?
Listening can be like this, especially in business conversations where we are trained to listen for the opportunities, the sales seams, the pain points. We are not taught to listen for better understanding.
It is these two broad tendencies – The Monkey Mind and The M&M Thief – that keep us from achieving what should be our fundamental purpose: to better understand the person sharing. Recognizing this is a critical step toward listening well.
Key #2: Stay Present 
One way to control these tendencies is through the practice of Open Sails.
A speaker is trying to take us on a journey. Their words and spirit and posture are all carrying us along, but only if we imagine ourselves as Open Sails, capturing that breeze. If our sails are not up, or we’re stubbornly turning the boat in another direction, we are fighting the journey, not experiencing it.
Being in the Open Sails state of mind, wholly present, is an amazing experience and one that few of us ever have. We are not naturally inclined to listen so completely. As you try, you will be constantly resetting your focus as you find you have wandered. Believe it or not, to stay present takes ferocious intent.
Key #3: Seek the Speaker’s Truth 
Another way to become a better listener is to commit to deeper understanding. As you listen, try to understand what the speaker is trying to communicate completely. Listen to the words and to the tone under the words. Watch the eyes, gestures and posture. If you truly seek the speaker’s truth you will find yourself wandering less and understanding much, much more.
The Three Keys 
Recognize Your Tendencies • Stay Present • Seek the Speaker’s Truth

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