Think back to the last intense conversation you had with someone on a topic that ignites your passion. If you are like most people, you can clearly recall your arguments in response to what you perceived to be the positions of the other party. You are ready to deliver your arguments in quick succession to the next person who dares to challenge you point of view. The truth is you may not recall too much of what the other person actually said, or what they were trying to accomplish with the discussion.
Too often, we listen to someone else in a conversation not to what is being said, but rather to when he or she stops talking. This pause is our cue to jump in and make a point that we have been pondering while they talked. We appear to be listening, nodding our heads at the right time and even making small vocal gestures, like 'uh huh' and this keeps the other person engaged in the conversation. After all, who wants to talk with someone who is simply not listening? Meanwhile, you are going through the motions, keeping them engaged by nodding and grunting just long enough to make sure your points have been expressed. Only then are you ready for the conversation to end.
We act as if we are interested in learning something new, yet our behavior suggests the exact opposite. Ironically, if we took the time to listen, we would learn more and our views would be more valuable to the next person we meet. Perhaps we're afraid of being wrong, but that is not logical either. It would make sense to learn why you are wrong and correct your mistake and move forward without perpetuating your error. Then again, we may not be dealing with simple logic here. We may instead be dealing with avoiding the embarrassment of being proven wrong.
This is similar to your thinking about managing mistakes at work. If someone makes a mistake and you immediately attack the person, you may also be suffering from fear that comes from personal pride, not logic or reason. On the other hand, if you treat every mistake as a learning opportunity, for the individual and for the business as a whole, then you will experience real growth in your business and personally. The problem often starts with being more intent on speaking than actually listening.
Try to listen actively to the subject matter and intentions expressed in every conversation. Don't react to the emotions that may accompany the communication. Reacting with emotion only escalates the excitement and further muddies the communication. Instead, take the time to listen carefully and resist the urge to speak without first asking a series of clarifying questions. Even if you believe that you have the answer, take the time to let the other person know that you are listening and concerned about the topic. Repeat key points and rephrase them in your own words to let the speaker know that you have heard and understood what they are saying.
Pause before answering. This not only gives you time to compose a well-considered response; it also elicits any additional information from the other party. Sometimes people hold back key bits of information, but that small awkward pause prompts them to blurt out something more. Very often, you will learn that the problem that originally began the conversation is not the real problem at all and your original assumption about the solution would have similarly missed the mark. Take a little time to listen better and you will improve your knowledge and your ability to communicate and lead.