Can't read minds without listening

Earlier this week, I had planned for uninterrupted time to complete three-writing intensive projects for clients. It’s been unusually cold outside and Mr. President, my English Bulldog, is not one to weather the chilly temperatures. He misses his daily walks and has cabin fever.


As I’m focused on writing. Mr. P. was “talking” to me in his high-pitched tone. First he was by the back door. I thought he needed to go outside. I walked over to where he was sitting, opened it, and he sat there.

I went back to my desk to continue writing, and he came running from the back room with a tug toy in his mouth. He jammed it into my knee, and we started to play. He suddenly dropped it and collapsed on the floor. He stopped playing

He left, came back and sat at my feet moving back-and-forth like a Webble. I gave him a treat but he wasn’t interested. His sporadic behavior went on for several more hours until I noticed he was laying by his dog dish. It was about 4:00 p.m. but getting dark outside. I decided to feed him early. He ate quickly and was a happy camper.

It dawned on me he was telling me he was hungry. Even with all the clues he made earlier in the day, I still didn’t actively listen to him.

It’s a mistake we can all easily make assuming we know what someone is saying. A person can quickly turn off her active listening skills and start thinking about the other things that need to accomplished while the other person is speaking.

Gladys Edmunds, a weekly small business columnist for USAToday, wrote in her January 27, 2010, column about the importance of listening to your employees or peers. She offers some great advice on how to improve your active listening skills. (The link to her column is posted above.)

Adding a few of my own:
  • Don’t finish another person’s sentence…you might just be wrong.
  • If you are involved in the middle of something and cannot be interrupted, ask the other person if you can make time later so you can give her your undivided attention.
  • Allow yourself to look the person in the eye. It will eliminate the desire to “multi-task” while you are listening.
  • If you only have five minutes, let the other person know but make it five minutes of active listening.
  • Allow for pregnant pauses. It allows the other person to share everything on her mind.
  • Don’t interrupt. It’s simply rude.

Mr. President is a smart dog. He speaks to Ed and me, and tells us what he needs. It’s his owner, who needs to do a better job of actively listening to the sound of his voice and watching his actions. Listening to others. It’s a skill I know I need to improve upon. Do you?

Did you like this post? Please send your comments to annmarie@ammcommunications.com.