You May Hear Something Remarkable

– By Arnie Thomas

In my last column, I promised to talk more about the art of listening. I thought that I would use a few recent encounters to make some observations and comments about a most valued skill. What we learn when we listen and what others learn about us can be the difference between poor and great communication, building a great relationship vs. a quick connection and success vs. failure.

I have taken courses in active-listening and they boil down to listening with more than just your ears. It means interacting with the “other” to discover more about them and to determine what they are really saying. At a party I attended last week, another guest related to me that they just got a new job. After congratulating her and telling her that getting a new job in this market was remarkable, I asked to tell me more about how she got it and why she wanted it. After proudly telling me her story, I asked if she would allow me to tell her successful method to others because it could possibly make a big difference. I often start a conversation expecting to learn something remarkable and if you listen with curiosity, you may find more than one!

A Few Thoughts on Listening

What happened in the ten minutes that I spent with her? One, because I focused on her words and emotions with my total attention and thought enough to ask questions, I told her (without words) that she was important. Secondly, she walked away thinking that she will make a difference in others and had a feeling of value. The success in any connection is based on how we leave them feeling. BTW, the young woman who I was speaking with had been an intern who landed her first job and I suspect one day will be a Chief of Staff or possibly a member of Congress.

Before I met her, I was observing someone else interacting with her. Only this person was more about being “interesting” than interested in her discussion. He was constantly watching the door for someone else more important and once he discovered she was a recent intern found a way to move on quickly. I am not writing to judge his actions but only to show that an opportunity was lost to discover something remarkable. When was the last time someone missed an opportunity with you to show your value?

I am often asked how we can actively listen to our colleagues in a work setting when it is so busy. The answer is if it is not about the work happening at that moment, don’t try to and set up a time when you can give them your undivided attention. For example, I was on the phone several weeks ago and I noticed someone waiting to speak with me. I know the phone call wouldn’t end quickly; therefore, at the proper time, I placed the call on hold and asked the person waiting if they had an emergency. They said no but it was important and we set up a time the next morning before work to talk. It was important and the next morning we had the time to discuss the problem and address it.

A Few of the Do’s and Don’t on listening:

Do – Eye Contact
Do – report back on what they are saying
Do – Ask good questions
Do – Look for something remarkable

Don’t – Interrupt
Don’t – Jump to conclusions
Don’t – Try to one up the person
Don’t – Try to be more interesting

Arnie Thomas is President & CEO of A Thomas Group LLC. He mentors, consults on client services, relationship management, leadership development, strategic consulting, and professional speaking. For more information or to set up a consultation, please email him at

Enjoy Arnie’s session on A Few Thoughts on Listening, check out other Arnie sessions here!

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