The development of non-technical, soft skills represents a significant choice
in the career of IT professionals. For those who choose to take the road most
traveled, here are a few thoughts on how to ensure poor client and peer relationships,
projects that focus on solutions to the wrong problems, and working cross-purposes
with your team.
- Just Keep Talking
Let’s face it -- the more you talk, the less time others get to talk. This way,
you completely avoid the issue of listening all together. Why risk having to pretend
you’re listening when you have the opportunity to completely prevent others from
There’s also a particularly useful secondary effect of this recommendation. The
more often you do this, the less often others want to be around you. Voila! You
have also reduced the frequency of situations where you might be forced to listen.
If you take only one useful tip you take away from this article, this one is it:
Flapping your gums will save your ears.
- When you’re not talking, think about what you’re going to say next
On occasion, even the best talker among us either runs out of things to say or
is rudely interrupted. When this happens, be prepared to jump right in to step
2. As soon as your mouth stops moving start thinking about how to resume talking.
It’s that simple.
Whether you’re trying to think of the wittiest thing anyone ever said or the most
brilliant way to bring the conversation back to your ideas or issues, poor listeners
often use this time to regroup. Be grateful for the opportunity. Remember, poor
listeners feel that talking is a big chance to look smart, important, caring or
charming. When not talking, prepare your next words.
You may want to consider bobbing your head up and down a few times while you’re
thinking. If you’re not careful, the speaker will notice that you’re not listening,
and will ask you a question for which you are unprepared. Then you will be stuck
stammering some sort of answer which won’t position you well to continue your
speaking. (The rude solution to this, of course, is to say something condescending
like “clearly, you don’t understand,” and then talk about whatever you were thinking
about. It’s inelegant, but it usually makes others stop talking.) Anyway, when
you talk again, it should be on your terms.
Join our new forums at WebProWorld! Ask your toughest questions
or help your peers solve their issues.
If you consistently follow these guidelines, you will secure your position as
an ordinary IT professional. Good Luck.
- Interrupt Frequently
Once you’ve figured out what you want to say next, then you’re ready for step
3, interruption. Interruption takes two major forms: finishing the speaker’s sentence
and just doing it. Finishing the speaker’s sentence is particularly effective
since it brings closure to their thought and demonstrates that you understand
Just starting to talk is usually best done when the speaker is forced to take
a breath. This way, you are not both talking at the same time, which becomes a
nasty battle of the talking wills. Remember, others want to talk as much as you
do. If you give them a chance, they’ll just keep talking forever.
- Look Away
Whether you are talking or not, you always have one tool at your disposal, avoiding
eye contact. This prevents the speaker from getting non-verbal feedback indicating
that you’re not listening. Some like to just stare, unfocused into space. I personally
find this difficult to pull off. Some poor listeners prefer to silently hunt the
room for more important or attractive people. There’s always someone better to
talk. If you must look at the speaker, focus on some odd aspect of their appearance,
like a piece of spinach between teeth.
- Never ever, ask clarifying questions
Finally, when you do get the chance to talk, don’t ask questions that help clarify
the comments of other speakers. Doing so would require that you listened to what
was said in the first place. It also seals the transfer of information by confirming
what you heard. Additionally, questions invite others to talk, ensuring that you’re
spending too much time listening.
About the Author:
Paul Glen is the author of "Leading Geeks: How to Manage and Lead People Who Deliver
Technology" (Jossey Bass Pfeiffer, 2002) and Principal of C2 Consulting. C2 Consulting
helps clients build effective technology organizations. Paul Glen regularly speaks
for corporations and national associations across North America. For more in formation
go to http://www.c2-consulting.com.
He can be reached at email@example.com.
Read this newsletter at: http://www.itmanagementnews.com/2003/0811.html