It’s not only about speaking but listening is just as important.
When it was suggested by Rick Disharoon, a fellow financial advisor at Slate, Disharoon, Parrish, and Associates, that I attend Toastmasters, I expected to find myself among orators and leaders that would help me hone my skills in public speaking. I eagerly went to the Dowell Springs Toastmaster Club and was cordially accepted.
If you’re not familiar with Toastmasters, it is an organization that supports the art of speech. As in giving speeches. It has a very structured format that critiques the speaker on many levels. Each member is expected to speak in front of the group and is graded on this specific criterion (time, presence, and grammar). It’s in these evaluator roles that I am learning a very important skill that I didn’t expect, ACTIVE LISTENING.
I thought listening was a simple response. Someone speaks, I listen. But active listening takes much more skill and practice, I’m finding. This is a skill that is much needed in my line of work. Mindfully listening to someone puts aside all else and directs complete focus to what the person is saying and the way they are saying it. In much the same way as working on one task at a time is more productive than multitasking, active listening is about devoting full attention to the other person’s words without trying to form a response in your head or think of solutions that can distract you from just listening and retaining what the person is saying.
I’ve been in Toastmasters just a short while and I can already see a heightened awareness in my attention to the words I use and the way I listen in conversations and consultations.
I hope you will give Toastmasters a try and see the richness it adds to your conversations.