One of the challenges of being the genius that you are is forgetting listening skills. Remember: other people exist in the Universe… and they might have something to say.
When you’re focusing intensively on your gifts, you might get a little carried away with yourself. You might be so tuned into your genius and your ideas, that you barely notice anyone else out there with an opinion. Your listening goes out the window.
Suddenly, you’ve sucked all the air out of the room without noticing it. Your thoughts, your ideas, and your voice are all you can hear. That’s not good for the Genius Ecosystem. (The Genius Ecosystem is the collective genius in your world: your team, organization, collaborative community. Like a natural ecosystem, it’s a web of interdependence where one supports the other.)
One of the keys to a healthy Genius Ecosystem is great listening. Listening takes you out of your own head and opens you up to receive the ideas and brilliance of those around you.
Here are a couple of exercises you can put into action right now to build up your listening skills and strengthen the Genius Ecosystem around you.
Exercise 1: #STFU
A great exercise to test your listening skills is to partner up with someone and have them talk for 2 minutes straight about a challenge… particularly a challenge that YOU are expert at solving. Your job is to sit there SILENTLY, not interjecting your solution or ideas. You are not to give facial responses to indicate that you know a solution (no “Pick me! Pick me!” faces). You can’t pantomime, wave, dance, shimmy, moonwalk, or use your body to convey anything. You just sit there, mouth closed, eyes on the person, and ALLOW them to speak. For some of you, those 2 minutes are going to KILL!
When you’re done, switch partners and repeat.
Debrief and discuss after… that’s when you can go over all the agony you endured of sitting there silently. But… what did you learn? That’s the important part. And how did the other person feel when they could speak uninterrupted for 2 minutes straight?
Exercise 2: Telephone
Yes, the party game you played in 6th grade that gave you the chance to whisper in the ear of that cutie you had a crush on, is a great tool to improve listening. The beauty of Telephone is that it shows how we create context and meaning from the information we have on hand… even if that information is inaccurate. You start off with “3 circus clowns in a car”, whisper it to the person next to you, they whisper it to the person next to them, they whisper it to the person next to them… and end up with “Trees grow in the forest.” Hmmm where did we go off course, team? Discuss.
Exercise #3: Yeah, What She Said
Ever look down at your phone while someone was talking to you, check your latest text or Fantasy Football scores, then look up and say “Oh, cool. That’s great.” But honestly, you had no clue what they said. You play acted. You tried to be a coy multi-tasker. But guess what? They know and you know that you failed.
Let’s make things right by doing an exercise where you must be attentive and fully present. This is a great team building exercise and can also be used in social situations where you introduce people.
Person A tells you a bit about themselves. Let them talk for a minute or 2. Have them cover the basics: who they are, where they’re from, what they do for a living, and something personal like a hobby or where they last traveled.
You, aka Person B, will then introduce Person A to someone else. You can do this at a meeting as an icebreaking exercise or in a social situation. Your job is to accurately summarize all that they told you (where they’re from, what they do for a living, etc.)
For an icebreaking exercise or team building, you’d then switch and Person A would introduce you the way you did for them.
Can you glance down at your messages while they’re telling you information about themselves? No.
Can you space out and think of all the other things you have to get done today while they’re talking to you? No again.
You simply need to be FULLY PRESENT. If you were around before cell phones, you may recall what that means to be fully present. It’s quite nice when you’re in it.
Put these 3 listening skills to work in your life and you’ll notice a change in how people hear YOU. Honoring another person by listening is honoring their genius… and remember: we all hold genius. Yours is important and so is the genius of those around you!