So far in this series on lean listening, pills we’ve seen how the second conversation in our heads can be deployed to help us rather than hurt us, and how to use it to listen for value. This article shares ideas on how to use the second conversation to help us cut through the clutter and reduce waste. We do this by listening for the main point, sale making the logic and language transparent, and filtering out the irrelevant.
Listen for Organization: What’s the Point?
How many conversations do you participate in where you feel like you’re on a hunt for buried treasure? Under a torrent of words, you know there’s a point in there somewhere, and you hope it will show up soon. If your conversation partner is practicing lean communication, cialis they will put the bottom line up front for you, but if not, it’s up to you to figure out their main point as quickly as possible, because having it makes the rest of the listening process fall into place. Not knowing their main point makes it hard to distinguish the relevant from the irrelevant, or the important from the merely interesting.
So, your main listening task is to identify and gain agreement on the main point as quickly as possible. Ask yourself if you’ve heard the point, and if the answer is no, ask. Do they want something from you? If you haven’t figured out their “ask” in the first thirty seconds, ask them: What do you need from me? Why are you telling me this? If they won’t tell you, be on your guard.
Listen for Transparency
Next, do you understand the logic and the language of what they’re saying? Logic refers to spotting the structure of the other’s argument. A clear logical structure makes it much easier to spot gaps, inconsistencies, and irrelevancies.
If the other person is communicating lean, following their logic should not be a problem, but if you can’t spot an underlying pattern, you can help the other person communicate more clearly to you by asking them for the structure that you prefer. For example, most business proposals fall into either a problem/solution structure or an investment opportunity (and they’re not mutually exclusive). If you can identify which of these applies, you can trot out your own mental template to help slot the incoming information in its proper place. For example, if they’re proposing something to solve a problem, listen for these four main areas:
What’s the nature of the problem: is it described accurately, are the root causes clearly understood, and what are the consequences of not solving it now? What criteria will they use for a solution? What alternatives have they considered? What are the advantages of their recommended solution?
As to language, there is so much room for misunderstanding in ordinary conversation, but we often don’t ask for clarification because we think it might make us look slow or ignorant. Don’t let your ego get in the way of effectiveness; make it a practice of asking for clarification or definition, or a concrete example of an abstract term. If you can’t picture it, you may not understand it—and often they may not either. For example, if someone says they want to improve quality, ask them to describe the gap between what is and what should be, or get specific examples of customer complaints.
Listen for Waste
Once you have identified the main point, it will make it easier for you to organize and classify the incoming information. You can apply the Four-I test: concentrate on identifying the integral and important information, enjoy the interesting without getting too distracted by it, and ignore the irrelevant. You should mentally ask yourself “So What?” periodically to ensure that what you are hearing contributes to the purpose of the conversation. Once again, you are perfectly within your rights to ask the question out loud (as tactfully as you think you need to be), to ensure that the content of the message is aligned with the purpose.