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Podcast Episode 068: The Four Villains of Listening

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Which of the listening villains are you? Once you know, you can’t forget it.

86% of people think they are an above-average listener.
So rather than thinking about how to listen better, it can be more helpful to notice what bad listening looks like.

Meet the Four Villains of Listening: Dramatic, Interrupting, Lost and Shrewd.

Each of these villains embodies particular bad habits we fall into, which completely derail our listening.
Learn about the ways the villains show up, and tips to combat them.

Once you know your listening villains, you know what’s getting in your way to becoming a deep listener.

Tune in to this episode, and take the Listening Quiz at listeningquiz.com

Transcript

Podcast Episode 068: The Four Villains of Listening

Oscar Trimboli:
Deep Listening: Impact Beyond Words. I’m Oscar Trimboli, and this is the Apple award-winning podcast, Deep Listening, designed to move you from an unconscious and distracted listener, to a deep and impactful listener. Did you know you spend 55% of your day listening, yet only two percent of us have had any training in how to listen? Frustration, misunderstanding, wasted time and opportunity, along with poor relationships, are just some of the costs of not listening. Each episode of the series is designed to provide you with practical, actionable and impactful tips to move you through the five levels of listening.

Oscar Trimboli:
I invite you to visit oscartrimboli.com/facebook to learn more about the five levels of listening, and how to learn from others who are listening better. Joining me is our co-host, Nell Norman-Note, who will ask the questions that you’ve been asking, and asking me the questions I haven’t considered to help make you a deep and impactful listener.

Oscar Trimboli:
Nell, this is a story that starts with frustration, real frustration, pent-up frustration, frustration for two and half years of writing blog posts and email newsletters and LinkedIn articles, and talking to what the best listeners in the world do and how to play their strengths as a listener and how to be the most optimistic and positive version of yourself when it comes to listening. And with all this writing, nobody was responding, very few people were leaving any comments. It was like tumbleweeds or listening for crickets.

Oscar Trimboli:
It was like nobody was listening, and it was really frustrating. Over the Christmas period in 2016, 2017, I was lucky enough to receive a book written by Kieran Flanagan and Dan Gregory called Selfish, Scared and Stupid. And to be honest, I was really angry while I was reading this book because it’s the opposite of everything I had ever been taught about leadership. It was the opposite I’d been taught about anything in a successful workplace. It smashed every theory or concept that I’d ever had, any assumption about human behaviour, and basically said, “There’s a reason we have currents, and there’s a reason we have sticks, and when it comes to dealing with people, we need to use both.”

Oscar Trimboli:
I’ve got to say, it stopped me in my tracks because I realised, all I’ve been writing about, all I’ve been talking about, all I’ve been doing when I was speaking to people, was how to be a great listener. And yet, with 86% of people thinking they’re above the average listener, I should have been listening a lot better. It was a blaring gap for me. I should have listened to the academic research that I was reading much more closely. Then I asked myself this question, if 86% of people think that they are right, what’s the point of giving them all this positive input? They already know it, they already think they’re excellent, they already think they’re above average when it comes to listening.

Oscar Trimboli:
Now, what I did then, I wrote this post on January 25, 2017, on LinkedIn, and it’s called The Four Habits That Derail You From Being a Great Listener. It was written from frustration rather than considered and thoughtful intersection of my consulting practise and the academic literature that I’d read. Yeah, that wasn’t going so well. What I discovered next and how people responded to this article, was the birth of The Four Villains of Listening.

Nell Norman-Note:
Wow. That’s quite an evolution of what now I know is a real foundation of what you talk about, Oscar. Tell me more. Tell me more about these villains and why they became so intriguing for people.

Oscar Trimboli:
Well, I think had tip to Dan and Kieran, who wrote the book, and I’ve been fortunate enough to actually meet them and discuss that a little bit further. Dan would say that he went on to predict that Trump would be elected because of people being selfish, scared and stupid, and many other political and global things that are happening right now might be better explained through the lens of Scared, Selfish and Stupid.

Speaker 3:
[crosstalk 00:05:10]. The British people have spoken, and the answer is we’re out.

Donald Trump:
This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.

Oscar Trimboli:
And Nell, it really cuts to my core, because I believe in the best in people, not their worst, and yet I’ve come to realise that, in doing so, that wasn’t helpful to anybody. My writing wasn’t being useful for anybody. My courses need to be adjusted significantly, and I think what happened next, it shocked me. What happened next, it surprised me. What happened next really motivated me. And more importantly, for the people who read this article, it changed their awareness around what’s getting in the way of their listening. It might not be that they’re great listeners, but it did help them to notice how they can make progress. It helped them to notice what bad listening shows up like, Nell, whether that’s you as the listener, but equally, when you’re speaking and listeners aren’t paying attention to you.

Oscar Trimboli:
This article went viral. 25,000 people so far have viewed the article, and I’m happy about that because it’s made a dent into our quest to 100 million deep listeners in the world. If you’d like to, you can read this post if you visit oscartrimboli.com/derailers, oscartrimboli.com/derailers. You can read the comments and you can put your own comment there. You can even make a reflection on the other comments you’re noticing in there. Nearly 700 people shared the article. Over 2,000 people have reacted to it. There’s about 170 different comments in there from lots of people all around the world, and people tag their friends and asking them to comment as well.

Oscar Trimboli:
Some of my favourite comments was when Julian got tagged, and it says, “I think I fall into at least two of these categories. I really have to work on becoming a better listener.” Donovan said, “Poor listening of others, and particularly the ones that are our superiors,” and I guess he means managers in the workplace, “can be demotivating and lead me to a lot of self doubt, and conversely help them to become better listeners.” I genuinely value it when they enhance the sphere of my own work. Mandy says, “I’m at least guilty of number one, I’m at least guilty of number two, and I’m definitely guilty of number three, and it’s given me something to work on to change my behaviour as a listener, even as we speak.”

Oscar Trimboli:
You can imagine, Nell, what’s going on in my head. It’s like, “Wow!” I’ve gone from no engagement, okay, maybe no engagement to complete over-exaggeration. Oops, there’s me being a dramatic listener, with limited or no reaction. But the comments continue. Rob says, “Oscar, this is very true. I have to admit, I can see myself in all four of the different derailers. I can see those in others where I’ve worked in sales. Listening is so the key, yet we tend to get absorbed in our own products and our own benefits and they switch off. In fact, traditional sales training, you are grilled on explaining the three benefits,” or said another way, he says, “What’s your elevator pitch and how do you throw it? How do you throw your elevator pitch?”

Oscar Trimboli:
But everybody’s engaging with it, and I go, “Oh my goodness. What’s going on here?” And then he goes on to say, “Although listening is not intuitive to most sales people, guess what, Oscar? It’s not even trained in sales training. We don’t train people in how to listen. We tell them to listen, but we don’t show them how.” And he says here, “It requires deliberate and conscious effort always being on.” With 170 comments, they just keep going on and on and on, and I could keep reading them, but I just kept doing this, Nell, and smacking myself on the face, and hitting myself on the head and going, “Wow. Dan and Kieran were completely right and I was completely wrong.”

Oscar Trimboli:
Well, maybe the words completely are a bit exaggerated, but people are motivated by their very most basic behaviours, is what I learned from this. It helped me notice things that, “Hmm, okay. Well, maybe people need to notice where they’re doing things wrong.” And a handful of comments at the end, this one’s from George. He says, “Oscar, with your permission, I’d like to use this piece in our leadership programme.” And I thought, “Oh, well that’s curious.”

Oscar Trimboli:
“We’re all in volunteer organisations and we help the US Coast Guard service.” I was like, “Wow. Come on. I’m here in Sydney writing this, and somebody who does leadership programmes for the US Coast Guard are taking notice of my posts.” These guys are listening where lives matter, whether that’s operationally, whether that’s jumping out of helicopters, whether that’s people in rescue boats, they save lives every day. It’s pretty amazing. And there’s Steven. He says, “I’m pretty sure I’ve been in all four of these camps at any time or another. By the way, Oscar, epic work on the shares on the post. It’s obviously definitely struck a chord.” Nell, it kind of feels like I uncorked the listening genie from their bottle with this post.

Nell Norman-Note:
You did, Oscar. You really hit the nail on the head with something that people have engaged with. I find it really curious that you said 86% of people think of themselves as above average listeners, but everyone’s so fascinated with what they’re doing wrong, so it’s this kind of dichotomy between… well, I think I’m above average at it, but reading these four villains, and I can relate too. For me, immediately, they jump out and I think, like Rob said to you, I know there’s instances where I’ve been all four at different times. So, I can understand how it struck a chord. It’s just interesting there’s that distinction between what we perceive ourselves to be and then what we engage with in terms of the content.

Oscar Trimboli:
Yeah. I’ve seen this in the research, and now we’re researching more and more people, people perceive themselves to be much better listeners as individuals, and much more judgemental of others. People are much faster and more explicit and much more articulated in explaining poor listeners and what they’re doing than they are at describing poor listeners in themselves. So, on that quest to 100 million deep listeners in the world, it’s critical that we create an awareness of what’s the maths, what’s the art, what’s the science of listening.

Oscar Trimboli:
Most of us know that maths is plus, divide, multiply, subtract, yet we don’t know what that looks like for listening. We don’t know what it tastes like. We don’t know what it’s like if it was a wine. We don’t if it was a white wine or a red wine. We have a pallet and we can describe wine across this pallet, and yet it’s ironic that the same language that we might choose to use with wine, like ‘fruity’ or ‘dark’, we don’t relate to listening. And yet listening is also probably like music. You can have classical, contemporary, it could be long and drawn out, or it could be short and sweet deep listening.

Oscar Trimboli:
The work we’re doing here, Nell, is creating a really simple framework for people to think about what good listening is, and what creating a really simple framework for people to think about what good listening is, and what poor listening is. I think, since that post, the four villains have come to life through the book, through the cards, through the jigsaw puzzle, through the podcast, through the workshops, through the keynotes, through, my favourite, the deep listening figurines, about 10 centimetres high little figurines that are basically real life characters that struck a chord, in fact, struck a chord with my granddaughter, Ruby, who uses many, many toys. She’s got lot of toys. She’s got barbie dolls and Lego toys. You name it, she’s got it.

Oscar Trimboli:
Yet it’s really funny that these four figurines, she comes to our place and she uses these figurines over and over again, and she makes up all these amazing stories, not necessarily about the listening characters, per se, but my wife, Jen, has a little giggle at the stories that Ruby makes up. Then, if her mom, Lauren, comes over to pick her up, and if she interrupts Ruby, then Ruby will point to the listening villain that’s the interrupting listener.

Nell Norman-Note:
Well, you’ve hinted at what one of the villains is, Oscar, by talking about interrupting, but I think it’s time to hear about all of them now.

Oscar Trimboli:
The easiest way to think about all of these listening villains is to think about the word ‘dils’. And in Australia, dils means somebody that isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer. They might be considered dimwitted, and these dils are the dramatic, interrupting, lost and shrewd listening villains. So, Nell, we’re going to talk about dramatic listening villain first, then the interrupting, then the lost, and then, finally, the shrewd.

Oscar Trimboli:
By the way, Nell, at the end of this podcast, we’re going to invite everybody who’s listening, that’s you, to take the Deep Listening Quiz to discover which listening villain you are. 20 simple questions. If you visit listeningquiz.com, that’s listeningquiz.com, you’ll be able to take the quiz in under seven minutes and get a personalised action plan tailored specifically to your primary listening villain.So, I just want to go back a step, Nell, and just say thank you to everybody who engaged in that derailers post, because you created the oxygen for these characters. It was your engagement. It was your ability to listen to what I wrote, that changed the way we think about it.

Oscar Trimboli:
Nell, it moved listening from something that was interesting, abstract and ethereal, to something that was real, that was practical, and these villains came to life out of the dialogue that was created online through that LinkedIn post. Now, in our workshops, people seem to notice the villains so much faster, they engage with the villains in the workshop, they laugh about the villains in the workshop, and these workshops really changed the way people perceive their listening barriers.

Nell Norman-Note:
I noticed a real change in people’s… the way they talked, the body language they were using, a sense of excitement in someone’s voice as they were talking about them. Particularly one lady, Clair, she just said, “These villains, once you know which villain you are, you can’t forget it.” And she had plans that when she was going to go back to her corporate office environment, that she’d share the listening villains with the team that she had there, and every time one of them interrupted or behaved in one of the characteristics of one of the villains, they were going to call each other out on it. So, I think it’s a very practical example of the way that people take this concept and then have been able to apply it and use it. I, certainly, can relate to that. Once you know which villain you feel like you resonate with most, it’s very hard to step away from it and to ignore that.

Oscar Trimboli:
Yeah, Nell. One of my favourite quotes from that workshop comes from Tracy, who said, “It’s like I’ve got my listening villain tattooed to my brain and I can’t remove it.” It seemed a really powerful point that Tracy was making, explaining, “I know what’s getting in my way now.” She says in every conversation she’s had since the workshop, these two primary listening villains show up. She can see the world through her lens of her listening villains. And as she said, it shows up not only at where she works, but also at home, and it shows up when she’s out with friends, and it shows up when she’s dealing with her children.It didn’t matter what the listening context was and how she was viewing the world. All of a sudden, she realised and noticed much faster what was getting in the way of her listening.

Oscar Trimboli:
I think, for a lot of us, we don’t understand that about our listening. I always make the point, listening is situational, listening is relational, and listening is contextual. If you can imagine these three circles intersecting with each other, always different for every conversation. Nell, you’ll listen differently on the phone compared to listening face-to-face. You’ll listen differently in a group setting than you will in one-on-ones. You’ll listen differently to the police than you will to a principal. You’ll listen differently to a banker to your brother-in-law. And you’ll listen differently because all of these listening villains are present all the time.

Oscar Trimboli:
I want you to think about the worst listener you know, Nell. It’s really important that you think about this person. Who’s the worst listener you know? And see if you can pick any of the attributes for one of these four listening villains. So, let’s start off, Nell, with the dramatic listener. I got distracted there for a moment, Nell. Your question was, “Who are all these four listening villains?” And we’re going to start off with dramatic. Dramatic loves to create drama. They want to explore every detail, every element of your discussion for emotion. So, rather helping the speaker make progress, they get stuck in the details because they want to put themselves in the story. They love dissecting the history of events, they want to see what the patterns and the characters are. And in your discussions, they are so engrossed in the emotion of your story, they become completely preoccupied with the drama, the theatre that you’re creating through the story, and all they want to do is become an actor inside your story. They want to be on the stage that you’re creating.

Oscar Trimboli:
Nell, there’s a great quote from the research about the dramatic listener. “Whenever I’ve spoken about a problem, or often a solution, or try to help someone who’s not listening, they’re usually too caught up in the problem to hear the idea or the solution for help.” There’s another I love, and it comes from one of my clients. I call it the funeral story. Nell, my client, she went to her boss when her grandmother had passed away, and wanted some time off for the funeral. She asked her manager this question on a Monday, and the funeral was on a Wednesday, so she basically said to her boss, “Can I have some time off for the funeral?”

Oscar Trimboli:
By the time she had finished saying the word ‘funeral’ and ‘grandmother’, her boss spent the next 10 minutes explaining how difficult it was when her grandmother passed away, and how troublesome the funeral was, and how difficult the probate on the will was. And by the time she had finished, my client simply said, “Is it okay if I go to the funeral on Wednesday?” Now, I’m sure, Nell, you’ve got lots of examples of the dramatic listener from your life.

Nell Norman-Note:
When I think of dramatic listener, I think of Samantha Jones from Sex and the City because when she’s talking with the other girls, with Carrie and the rest of the group, it comes back to her. It’s always about her as the centre of attention. She’s big, she’s characterful, flamboyant, and, yeah, it’s very relatable for a lot of people, and she’s confident. I think a lot of us know people like that in our lives. But she’s definitely someone who epitomises for me that sense of the dramatic, because, as you related in the funeral story, it comes back to being about her as the centre of the piece. It’s not about the other person and what they’re trying to convey.

Oscar Trimboli:
Can you think of any Samanthas in your social group now? Are you Samantha?

Nell Norman-Note:
Well, you’ve got me, Oscar, because dramatic would have to be my listening villain. I have two listening villains, and dramatic is one of them. I don’t know if there’s many other women out there that relate to this. I’m guessing they probably are, but when I’m out socialising with my friends, I think a lot of us can become dramatic listeners. It most recently happened when I was out with a girlfriend. Our children go to the same school, and I wanted to talk about the fact that we’re forming a new parents and friends committee, and this is a kind of association. Most schools I think would have them. As parents, you can sit on this body and be the kind of spokesperson for other parents to the teachers and to the school to help arrange things, whether it’s to have some activities on at the school, after school dance programmes and all those kind of things.

Nell Norman-Note:
Currently our school doesn’t have a committee like this, so we were in the process of forming it. I said, “Look, can we talk about it?” I knew she was interested, and I said, “Hey, Sarah, can we have a chat?” And she said, “Sure, absolutely. Let’s have it over a glass of wine.” So, we were sat in the Charrot up in Bronte, not far from where the school is, and I started talking about what I thought we could do and how the committee could work, some of the conversations I’ve had with the principal. Then the conversation quite quickly got diverted back to the fact that previously, there had been all of this drama about the disbanding of the old committee, and oh my goodness, and all this stuff that had gone on. By the end of the conversation, we probably talked for about an hour and a half over a good oaky chardonnay. Yeah, we didn’t really get very far. That was just an example of how the dramatic, well, for me in that instance, derail the conversation.

Oscar Trimboli:
A good oaky chardonnay. Sounds like a beautiful description about a wine. And for someone who’s never drunk alcohol in my entire life, I honestly have no idea, Nell, about what you’re talking about when it comes to drinking a good oaky chardonnay, but this would be a great example of a dramatic listener’s response to your story. You make a great point about the dramatic listener actually impedes progress. Here’s some key themes to think about if you think you might be the dramatic listener. Do you make it all about them or do you make it all about you? Do you make them feel unimportant? Do you listen really intent for drama or conflict? How does a dramatic listener show up? Well, here’s another favourite quote of mine. Nell, when it comes to the dramatic listener, it’s frustrating when you tell them something about yourself and then continuously respond with something about them. Their focus is always on themselves and not on me.

Nell Norman-Note:
Enough about the drama, Oscar. Let’s move onto the next villain.

Oscar Trimboli:
Listening villain number two in the series of dils, the interrupting listener, the listening villain we actually notice the most because they’re so overt. We can notice them all the time. In fact, it’s a game I play when I’m people watching, whether that’s in a shopping centre, at the airport or a dinner party, I’ll always notice the interrupting listener without even hearing what they’re saying. The interrupting listener, funnily enough, Nell, is coming from a really genuine place of concern. I remember we were playing this game at home. Please remember you want to be thinking about the worst listener you know, and this is going to help you identify which one of the listening villains you might be, because we’re channelling Selfish, Scared and Stupid. Dan and Kieran would love that.

Oscar Trimboli:
Think about the worst listener you know, and as I describe the interrupting listener, they’re so focused on finding the answer to the problem that they won’t even let you finish the sentence. In fact, when you draw breath, the interrupting listener thinks it’s their commercial break to give you the solution. Speaking of commercial breaks, I think it’s like a TV quiz show. They’re like the contestant on a TV game show that buzzes early before the host has been able to explain the question fully, and all they do is they answer the wrong question.

Oscar Trimboli:
The interrupting listener feels like you’re speaking way too slowly. You’re describing the issue so elongated, they want to just get to the answer as quickly as possible. So, their intent in listening is really listening to solve. It’s listening to fix rather than to be listening from curiosity. So, when they interject, all kinds of confusion takes place in the speakers mind because they haven’t finished explaining what they’re trying to say. They’re so busy trying to solve the problem of the speaker, that the speaker hasn’t even got it out of their head.

Oscar Trimboli:
Here’s a trick in case you’re an interrupting listener. If you are an interrupting listener, we want to use Nell’s little technique around pause. Your little trick as the interrupting listener is just to wait all the way through the silence. Treat silence like it’s another word. Listen to the beginning, the middle, and the end of silence. You won’t be jumping in and out and talking over other people. Just allow the other person to pause. Nell, when you relate to the interrupting listener, who’s the worst interrupting listener you know?

Nell Norman-Note:
Interrupting is my other villain for me.

Oscar Trimboli:
Well, good. Well done for outing yourself.

Nell Norman-Note:
I think it’s important to be self aware of our own difficulties when it comes to listening. I find that interrupting is also the thing that frustrated me the most. I don’t know if there’s a kind of correlation there, Oscar, with what really drives me insane and what I probably do.

Oscar Trimboli:
Nell, there’s a reason why I’m asking everybody to look at what’s the worst in others as listeners. It’s because we can only notice what’s in others if we’re conscious of that in ourselves. You’ve kind of given the game away already. If you can relate to one of the listening villains more than any other, then there’s a good chance that’s the kind of listening villain you actually are.

Nell Norman-Note:
So, while dramatic is my social life, I think at home I’m interrupting. It’s typically because I’m a mom, I’m working, two children, husband, juggling lots of different things all the time, so when my husband maybe comes to me and talks to me about things that are going on for him, I can be much more interested in solving the problem than actually taking the time to listen. So, for example, he recently had a scenario at work where he’s particularly frustrated. I’m not going to go into the detail there because this podcast is not long enough, but there were some frustrations there, and he’s talking to me about them. I immediately kind of jumped on the, “Okay, well, what do we do about this? What’s the best thing? How do we solve for this?”

Nell Norman-Note:
But I realise in hindsight what I should have done is I should just take the time to listen, because there’s only very little that I’m going to be able to do to solve it. Whilst my opinion might be useful, it’s probably more useful for him because he’s got all of the context and all of the information to walk through solving that for himself.

Oscar Trimboli:
What do you think was forcing you to rush?

Nell Norman-Note:
We’re all busy I think is the thing that people say now. I’m thinking about I’ve got to kind of get back to my computer to respond to something, or I’ve got to go and do the school kids pick up, or I’ve got to go and return a call. I’m thinking of multiple things at the same time and probably not having that conversation at necessarily the right time.

Oscar Trimboli:
What about with your kids? How does interrupting show up in those conversations?

Nell Norman-Note:
Well, I notice it. So, if we’re thinking about between my children, because I have two children. I have a little boy, Finley, who’s eight, and a little girl, Ella, who’s five, and my eight year old will sometimes, Finley will sometimes over talk Ella because she’s more confident, and one of the things I’ve become more conscious of is if he does, letting him finish, but going back to Ella and saying, “Ella, you were part way through saying something else,” and that’s how I’m trying to use the villains, and the construct is a way to help my children just maybe mirror that behaviour as well.

Oscar Trimboli:
If you’re the interrupting listener, you tend to jump in, you tend to talk over. You tend not to allow for the pause. This is one of my favourite quotes from the research. “When I’m speaking, the interrupting listener is so eager to finish my sentence even though they do it completely incorrectly.” Here’s another quote from the research. “It’s important for you to notice, do you tend to speak faster than the speaker? If so, that’s a good hint for you that you are likely to be the interrupting listener. Are you eager to finish with your own punchline rather than listen completely to what they say? Do you struggle with the pause? Do you struggle with the silence? Do you struggle to wait for what they have to say?”

Oscar Trimboli:
Now, Nell’s always got a great tip, and it’s this simple. Count one 1,000, two 1,000, three 1,000 to yourself before they speak again. When you finish, you’ll quickly come to realise that when they draw breath, they’ll probably continue because you haven’t interrupted them. Remember the 125 900 rule. You speak at 125 words a minute, yet you can think at up to 900 words a minute. So, the likelihood the first thing that comes out of your mouth is what you mean, there’s an 11% chance that the interrupting listener will be correct. You could go to Los Vegas or any casino and probably get better odds. So, if you want to double your listening effectiveness as an interrupting listener, just do what Nell says, one 1,000, two 1,000, three 1,000 to yourself, and you’ll be amazed how much more the speaker has left to say.

Nell Norman-Note:
So, Oscar, enough of dissecting me as my listening villains. But what about you? I mean, I think there’s got to be one that you relate to.

Oscar Trimboli:
Nell, at home I’m the lost listener, and at work I’m the shrewd listener. The last two villains of listening are lost and shrewd, and we’re going to spend much more time dissecting me and my struggles as it relates to listening. Nell, I get interviewed a lot on podcasts, on TV shows, on radio shows. I spend a lot of time at the front of the room speaking and training people, and the point I make consistently is I’m far from a perfect listener. The difference between me and other listeners is I notice faster when I’m distracted compared to everybody else, and my wish for the world and your journey to becoming a deeper listener isn’t that you become a perfect listener, it’s just that you notice much faster when you get distracted.

Oscar Trimboli:
If we noticed how quickly we got distracted, we would move quickly from the distracted listener to a deep and powerful listener. That’s one of the struggles for the lost listener. It’s distraction. The lost listener is completely lost in their own mind. Rather than being in the conversation, they might be absorbed completely in their self talk, and they can’t create enough space in their own mind for the dialogue to land, or they could be so busy thinking about what they need to do next or what they’ve done beforehand or what they need to do on the weekend and what they need to do at the shopping centre that they’re completely lost. The lost listener shows up sometimes as distracted.

Oscar Trimboli:
Now I’m sure you can relate to a couple of people, but the lost listener is the person who’s always got their beeping and buzzing, and their apps notifying them and the laptop’s going off and the phone’s ringing, can they wait a moment and just come back to you? The lost listener is a distracted listener. They’re lost in the conversation even before it starts because they’ve got a radio station playing a tune from something else that’s going on, something that’s not visible.

Oscar Trimboli:
Nell, I have to admit, I spend 93% of my day listening now, and my listening batteries are generally pretty drained by the time I come home, unless I apply this tip that was prompted to me by Neil, who asked me, “How do I recharge my listening batteries when I’ve spent all day listening?” And it was a good question. Neil’s a recruiter, so he also spends a lot of his day listening too. That’s why he was asking me. All I said to him was I’ve got a playlist. It’s a music playlist, it’s a wide ranging playlist, it’s a range of music in there, and playing music helps me to reset and recharge my listening batteries. Now, I know that might sound wacky, but its’ really helpful for me, Nell, to reset my mind when it comes to my listening batteries.

Nell Norman-Note:
I’ve never heard you talk about that before, Oscar. Music… what did you call it? It’s just your playlist to reset your listening batteries? I am going to have to do that, and I think you now have to publish it.

Oscar Trimboli:
When I start out of the building, Nell, if I want to hit reset, as you can imagine, there’s a whole bunch of browser tabs opened up in my own mind, and all of us have a mind like a computer. The more thoughts we add in there, the more browser tabs we open up, and we keep chewing up more and more and more memory. The more conversations that are part of those browsers in your own mind, the more memory is not available to listen. So, for me, if I want to do a reset, Sarah Brightman, Andrea Bocelli, and their singing Time to Say Goodbye or Fort Minor with Remember My Name, you couldn’t get two more different songs.

Oscar Trimboli:
One is a beautiful piece of classical music, and another one is a really direct rap song as well, whether it’s Friday Night Lights, which is a nearly eight minute long, slow melodic music, or the build up of U2, Where the Streets Have No Names, and it just continually gets fast. I think what helps in the reset of my old listening batteries is that this music has range in it. It’s not the same kind of music. I think, yeah, maybe there’s some science to it. The point I want to make, Nell, too, is a lot of executives I work with will do conference calls driving home or driving to work, and one of the things I say is don’t drive into the driveway if you’re still on a conference call or you’re still on a call with somebody else. Park your car at least two blocks from home, finish your conference call, go through your little reset routine, and then come home, and then you move from work mode to home mode, and you’ll be available to listen to everybody when you get home.

Nell Norman-Note:
How does being the lost listener show up for you if you don’t recharge those listening batteries?

Oscar Trimboli:
Nell, the lost listener shows up for me on the weekends, especially. What we’ve got is pretty much chaos going on in our house with the grandkids and the kids, and Ruby the six year old, and all the twins running around and maybe nephews coming in and all kinds of people, from running groups or swimming groups might be passing in and out of the house. Lots of conversations are going on simultaneously. I’m someone who values depth, intimacy. There’s nothing I love more than a dinner party where it’s just me and Jen and two other people. That way I get to spend more time in fairly detailed and deep conversations with these people. But in home on that weekend that I just describe, I feel like there’s a whole bunch of conversations bouncing off the corner of a billiard table with balls going all over the place as conversations bounce off each other.

Oscar Trimboli:
In that moment, it’s difficult for me to stay connected with all the conversations, so I just zone out from all of them, and I let the conversation wash over the top of me. Occasionally, I just have to say, “Hey, I’m really sorry, do you mind saying that again?” Now, you can’t keep saying that over and over again. It would be disrespectful. But sometimes when I’m zoned out, I just have to be honest and say that. The other time it shows up is when I’m listening to stories, well repeated stories about 13A Orchards Roads in Johannesburg, which is where Jen grew up inn South Africa. I’ve never been there, but all of Jen’s family can tell you the story about pool or the gardener or the dog, or even the story of the marble cake.

Oscar Trimboli:
Jen’s mom, Ushi, was renowned for making these marble cakes, and so good were the cakes that she’d have to hide them from the kids. What happened was when they moved to Australia, in the garage, they discovered many, many mouldy marble cakes because they’d been hidden so well that nobody knew where they were. So, the story of the mouldy marble cakes becomes quite legendary and told quite often. There’s also the story of my brother in law’s when they’re debating the merits of manual settings versus automatic setting on a Canon camera, and is Adobe Photoshop the right tool to use in post production? But I digress, Nell, sorry. Some of us are lost right now. We’re lost in the stories. And that’s okay.

Oscar Trimboli:
All right. Let’s wrap it up. Let’s wrap up the lost listener, because there’s a couple of words you will notice when you’re thinking about the worst listener you know who’s lost. They’re distracted. They’re not paying or giving you any attention, and they typically ask you to repeat something. They look quite vague. In our research it shows up with a couple of interesting quotes that says, “You can see they’re focused on something off in the never, never land. They’re more likely to be distracted by a phone or something else.” The tips for the lost listener are stay present in the conversation, stay focused, stop being distracted by what they say, and just be comfortable being in the conversation. Just try and drink a glass of water to keep you in that conversation.

Oscar Trimboli:
One tip for the lost listener that I’d say, ditch the mobile devices. Get rid of the electronic devices, whether it’s a mobile phone, a cell phone, a laptop, an iPad, anything that beeps, buzzes, vibrates, dings, well, those things if you get rid of them, you’ll notice you’ll be less lost much more quickly. Let’s look at it in a very different way. Let’s listen to how Eric brings this to life when his manager shows up as the lost listener.

Eric:
When it comes to others listening to me, what frustrates me most when they don’t listen to me is that it feels like they don’t value me, my thoughts, and my time as much as they do the other thing that they’re doing. Oftentimes I’ll try and have a conversation with maybe a superior at work, and they’ll be on their computer rather than focused and engaged with me, which leads me to believe that whatever’s on the computer, the email that dinged, the text message they received is views as more important than whatever I had to say or the issue that has come about. When that happens to me, what I do is typically stop talking and just stare at them until they realise that there’s silence in the air, and they stop doing whatever they’re doing and redirect their attention back to what I’m saying, sort of a passive aggressive way to approach it, but something I do nonetheless.

Oscar Trimboli:
We’ve heard it from Eric’s perspective when it feels like the lost listener isn’t listening to you. Let’s hear from Melanie, who describes herself as a lost listener.

Melanie:
Hi, this is Melanie in Michigan. I’ve noticed that my communication challenges are directly tied to technology, and specifically my cell phone. I’ve noticed that if I’m on my phone doing something for fun or even for work that when people talk to me or interrupt me, that I still tend to look at my phone, and I’m aware that that’s poor communication. I don’t appreciate it when that happens to me when I’m trying to talk to somebody and they’re looking at their phone, so my challenge and my question would be really how can we balance using technology and being productive, but still being present and available for communication with our coworkers and also with the people in our lives that we love? Thank you very much.

Nell Norman-Note:
Oscar, you mentioned you’re also the shrewd listener. How would you describe a shrewd listener, Oscar?

Oscar Trimboli:
A shrewd listener and the interrupting listener are cousins, Nell. The difference between the two is the shrewd listener is shrewd enough not to interrupt, yet they’re too busy trying to solve not only the current problem, but they’re also trying to finish the next problem before the speaker’s even finished explaining their first problem. They’re shrewd enough to wait patiently. They’re shrewd enough not to interrupt, but in their mind, they’re anticipating multiple versions of the future. They’re trying to solve problems before they’ve been explained, and worse still, they’re creating problems in their own mind that the speaker hasn’t even considered.

Oscar Trimboli:
They’re getting so excited about their own solutions to solving next and future problems, that they’re not actually present. They’re not giving attention to the current conversation and what the speaker’s saying, Nell. As a result, although they’re intently nodding and people think from afar that they’re probably listening, the shrewd listener is in problem solving mode. Unlike the interrupting listener who jumps in to give a solution, the shrewd listener is like a stalker or a spy waiting in the shadows, in the background, to pounce when you finally finish your conversation.

Nell Norman-Note:
You mentioned you’re a shrewd listener, Oscar. Talk to us about how it shows up for you.

Oscar Trimboli:
For me, Nell, shrewd shows up in most things. At work, it shows up in each assignment brief I take, whether that’s a speaking brief, whether that’s with workshop, whether that’s when I’m doing a post workshop follow up, whether that’s putting together an outline for this, the Deep Listening podcast, whether it’s having a conversation with someone who’s in a parallel profession to mine. Typically it shows up when I’m speaking to key note speakers, and they always ask me, “Oscar, how do you speak in a way that makes sure the audience listens to you?” In all those cases, Nell, with I’m taking a brief or whether I’m sitting down and listening to a professional speaker, what’s going on in my mind?

Oscar Trimboli:
You just need to think about visualising this scene, Nell. I am embarrassed saying this out loud. Imagine I’ve got my elbow on the table, my hands raised up to my chin, and I’m looking deeply into your eyes, and while you’re speaking, I’m nodding while I’m balancing my chin on my thumb and my forefinger, and deeply listening to what they say. I’m engaging, yet if you saw the subtitles going on in my head, this is what the subtitles would be saying. They’d be saying, “Oh my goodness, you think that’s your problem? Well, you’re describing that rather poorly. I hope you could explain that a little quicker and more succinctly, because after all, I am the deep listening expert. Oh my goodness, you think that’s actually your problem? Although it is a basic problem that anybody in the world could have, I can think of three other problems you haven’t even explained yet.”

Oscar Trimboli:
“Pause, let me be gracious as the global Deep Listening expert and wait for you prior to giving you an elegant and well thought through answer. But let me wait as I choose not to interrupt.” As a shrewd listener, I get my power from sitting back in judgement of you, like a super villain, as I wait for your poor articulation of what you know very little about. Now, how’s that for channelling the subtitles going on in my head and as I politely and differentially wait for the speaker to finish? I’m sure, Nell, it’s a completely different perspective you might have of me as a listener. That’s what listening as a shrewd listener shows up for me.

Nell Norman-Note:
A completely different perspective on you as a listener, and a very raw opening of what it’s like to be shrewd, and how insightful is being someone that’s interrupting to get an insight into that.

Oscar Trimboli:
Yeah.

Nell Norman-Note:
The way that that operates for you.

Oscar Trimboli:
Yeah. Let’s listen to Dr. Justin Coulson, global parenting expert, somebody who’s been married for 21 years and has six children, all of them girls. Let’s listen as he explains how he moves into shrewd mode when listening to his clients.

Dr. Justin Coulson:
I’ve got a quick mind, and so when I’m listening to somebody, I often feel as though, as with a PhD in psychology, I feel like I understand people quite well. So, when somebody’s speaking, my mind and my knowledge combine to form this… I guess I lean on what psychologists call heuristics, which are kind of mental shortcuts. So, when somebody starts to say something, I’m pretty sure I know where they’re going and I’m pretty sure I’ve got a good solution for them already. What often happens is that I won’t hear somebody out. I’ll hear what they’ve begun with, and I’ll already know what they’re going to ask and I already know what the answer is, and I’m ready to dive in.

Oscar Trimboli:
Think about the worst listener you know and it might be the shrewd listener. This listener is all about problem solving, and they’re actually pretending to listen, but they’re stuck in their own assumptions. They assume they know everything. Our research has got some wonderful quotes. “When they pretend to be listening, they try and pretend as if they’re hearing, and they’re saying beautiful things such as, “Mm-hmm (affirmative),” and nodding.” Oh my god, they must have seen me while we’re recording this podcast, Nell, and you know what’s really all that’s going on in their mind is that they want to solve the problem that you haven’t even got a chance to say right now.

Oscar Trimboli:
I had it described beautifully the other day where somebody said to me, “Ah, the shrewd listener is like a doctor who gives a prescription to the pain that the patient doesn’t actually have.” That’s the consequence of being a shrewd listener. Here’s a couple of things if you’re a shrewd listener to help you make progress. If you’re trying to anticipate what they’re saying next, there’s a good hint that you’re probably a shrewd listener. Get out of your head and start to notice how they’re feeling rather than what they’re saying. And rather than trying to solve their problems, which is a dead give away, you’re not listening.

Oscar Trimboli:
Here’s your tip. Notice how they’re saying something, not what they’re saying. As a shrewdy, it’s a really good sign if you’re just paying attention to the content and not noticing their body state and their emotion and their posture and their sentence structure, and that’ll actually help you as a shrewdy to slow down and actually listen fully to what they’ve got to say.

Nell Norman-Note:
Well, now you know the listening villains, jump into the Facebook group, oscartrimboli.com/facebook, and share who you are. Are you dramatic, are you interrupting, are you lost, or are you shrewd? The group has grown exponentially over the last few months, and we’ve seen some really fascinating comments in there. So, come on over, share who you are, and we’ll respond to you. I’m really excited, Oscar, that we’ve got the Deep Listening Quiz, which has now launched. Go to listeningquiz.com and you can discover whether you’re dramatic, interrupting, lost or shrewd.

Oscar Trimboli:
Now, I’m so excited, and thanks to Heidi who’s been helping us with her research in the background. We’ve got a series of really simple questions that helps you zoom in fast. You’ll be surprised how few questions there are in the quiz. We’ve already tested it with 50 other people in the prototype, and thanks to the work being done with Heidi and Melissa in the background, thanks to Mel for helping to bring the quiz to life. The listening quiz is a series of really simple than 20 questions to shine a light on what kind of listening villain you are.

Oscar Trimboli:
Finally, again, a big hat tip to Dan Gregory, to Kieran Flanagan, and their amazing book, Selfish, Scared and Stupid. If we know which villains we are, we’re going to be able to make progress faster. Now, one of the things that the quiz will do is help you to increase your awareness of which listening villain is your primary listening villain, but it also will shine a light on what’s your secondary listening villain as well. I think this helps most people understand how they show up at work versus how they show up at home, and bring them to a consciousness of what their listening barriers are. If you take listeningquiz.com, you’ll get a report that’s individualised to you and your listening villains, and you’ll get three tailored and practical tips based on your primary listening villain, that can help you practise on a daily basis.

Oscar Trimboli:
You’ll also have the opportunity now to participate in the well used 90 day Deep Listening challenge. We’ve run the Deep Listening challenge now for well over a year to keep you engaged for a period of 90 days with a set of 13 weekly emails that will keep you on track month on month for three months. You’ll get some really practical tips, whether that’s a podcast you might want to listen to, and it’s not necessarily mine, a YouTube video, or a book to read. It gives you some very simple tips to do on a weekly basis.

Nell Norman-Note:
I invite you to come to listeningquiz.com and answer those simple 20 questions, as Oscar mentioned, and do share what your listening villain is in the Facebook group.

Oscar Trimboli:
Nell, I can say this on the other side now, I’m really grateful for that frustration that I felt over Christmas in 2016, and Dan and Kieran’s book was a way for me to learn to listen to frustration and not pushing it away. Frustration is just the threshold of discovering something new, something more powerful, and something rather useful. So, rather than pushing against that frustration, I need to learn to learn into frustration. Thanks to Dan and Kieran, once again. I think this book is something that everybody should have a chance to read, because it was that book that helped me discover the four villains of listening and how that created a LinkedIn post that over 25,000 people have already read and understood what does a deep listening villain show up like.

Oscar Trimboli:
If you get a chance to take the Deep Listening Quiz, post it on our Facebook group, oscarbtrimboli.com/community, and tag five people you know who you think should take the quiz. Yeah, that’s right, once you’ve taken the quiz, thinking about all those people that I ask you to think about, tag four or five people as a way to spread a humorous and happy way to help people increase their awareness of their listening blind spots. Finally, in the words of Tracy, who said that, “Once you showed me my deep listening villain, it felt like it was tattooed on my brain for the rest of my life and I can never remove it, it’s one of the most powerful things I’ve ever heard to improve my listening.”

Oscar Trimboli:
Thanks to you for listening. It takes a village to raise a child, but it takes a tribe to create 100 million deep listeners in the world. Somebody much better at maths than me once said that if those listening to this podcast share just this one episode with one other person, we could reach 100 million deep listeners in only 36 months. Thanks for listening.

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