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Take Your Communication to the Next Level with Ingaged Listening


If you have read articles or books about improving your listening, you have heard this advice . . . 
Don’t formulate your answer while someone else is speaking  . . . just listen


That is good advice. When you are already thinking about how you will answer while someone else is speaking, you are using interruptive listening. There are many reasons it interferes with good communication. One is that when you are thinking about your reply, you might not completely hear what is being said. Another is that the other person can tell you are not really paying attention and will give up and move on to something else.

When patterns like those develop because you are not really listening, the result is that effective communication simply cannot happen. 

If You’ve Stopped Interruptive Listening . . . What’s Next?

Let’s assume that you are working to quiet those interruptive thoughts. That’s a positive start on the road to improving your listening and your communication skills.

I would, however, encourage you to take your listening abilities several levels higher by practicing what I call Ingaged Listening. It is a way of listening that I have developed over my hears of leading businesses. I have written about it in my books, including Ingaging Leadership Meets the Younger Generation.  

Ingaged Listening simple to put into practice. Here’s what to do.

Start listening for what the other person is saying that is right, not what is wrong.

This is the bedrock skill of Ingaged Listening. Instead of listening for ideas that you can challenge or reject while another person is speaking, you listen for ideas that are new and promising. And you remember those ideas and after the speaker has finished talking, you circle back to them and then help the speaker cultivate them by asking positive questions like . . . 

  • When did you first develop that idea? What was taking place at the time . . . what was the context?
  • Have other people helped you develop this solution . . . who are they, and can they help you develop it further?
  • Would you like to take the ball and run with your idea and report back in two weeks or a month from now?
  • How can our organization support you?

 It is also important to stress that you are operating in a zero-blame context. If the speaker tries out his or her new idea and it doesn’t live up to expectations, that is perfectly fine. Be sure to say that. Failure, in fact, is an opportunity to learn and grow and improve.

Be willing to set aside your personal opinions and prejudices and let the other person try. 

When another person is speaking, you will often discover that negative opinions will enter your mind in the form of . . . 

  • “We tried that two years ago and it didn’t work . . . why try again?”
  • “This person doesn’t have the experience to put his idea into action . . . it just won’t work.”
  • “Our company lacks the resources to do this just now . . . I better kill it now.”

It is only natural to have ideas like those enter your mind when another person is speaking. But when they do, it is important to let another statement enter your mind . . . 

  • “I could be wrong about this.”

You could be wrong for a variety of reasons. Maybe the person who is speaking, or other individuals in your organization, possess knowledge or experiences that you lack. Maybe a new idea that failed four or five years ago will work today because conditions have changed in the marketplace. Maybe there is new technology – possibly technology that you don’t know about – that makes your opinion invalid. Question yourself before you question others. 

The bottom line is, progress often occurs if you get your opinions out of the way, simply listen, and let other people try new things. 

Beware of “Yes” People

These people exist in every organization. If you have been around one, or if you have ever fallen into the pattern of being one of them yourself, you know they engage in patterns like these . . . 

  • They only say what they believe superiors and colleagues will want to hear . . . and never what they need to hear.
  • They hold back their best ideas or water them down . . . to avoid shaking things up or “making waves.”
  • Instead of making a genuine effort to contribute the new ideas that will move the organization forward . . . they say only what they think will please their superiors.

It takes courage, but if you are genuinely committed to your organization’s success, avoid the tendency to surround yourself with people who share your opinions and perspectives. Instead, surround yourself with strong people who possess a variety of perspectives, skills, and experiences. 

The more you accept the idea that the most critically important people are the ones who challenge other people’s perspectives – especially your own – the more your organization will succeed.

And another thing. It isn’t enough to simply surround yourself with challenging people. You need to listen to them too . . .  in an Ingaged way. 

About Evan Hackel

Evan Hackel is a 35-year franchising veteran as both a franchisor and franchisee. He is CEO of Tortal Training, a leading training development company, and principal of Ingage Consulting. He is a speaker, hosts “Training Unleashed,” a podcast covering training for business, and author of Ingaging Leadership. To hire Evan as a speaker, visit Follow @ehackel or call 781-820-7609. Why not have Evan Hackel address your group about franchising success?