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Real Life stories on Communication (II)

I have gone to Mumbai and stayed with one of my close friend, Rahul who is working as a senior manager in the marketing department of a large organization. Incidentally, both of us studied together and met after a long time. Hence, we were recalling all our old friends and discussing about their successes. Suddenly, Rahul became emotional. He shared that recently somebody has joined in his department and became popular overnight. Though, he is junior to him both in the rank as well as age and experience yet most of the staff members go to him for taking his suggestions. I could see the signs of displeasure. Since, it was almost quarter past twelve without discussing further on this topic we went to sleep. Next day morning my flight was at 12.30 pm. Since, Rahul’s office was very close to airport he suggested me to come with him to his office. He has his driver whom he had instructed to drop me to airport around 11.00am. Rahul took me to his cabin. I was little puzzled, hence asked Rahul whether my presence will disturb him. On his insistence I sat on a sofa set, which was lying in a corner. Rahul switched on his computer and started seeing his mails; I took a magazine and started glancing through it.

Few minutes later one of his team member walked in and asked Rahul, if he can discuss some urgent matter with him. Suddenly, Rahul pushed back his chair, stared at the person intently and gave a non-verbal signal to proceed. His team member started sharing the information he had on the issue that was bothering him and he wanted Rahul’s opinion. While his team member was talking, I found Rahul, acknowledging whatever he was saying with an ‘unh huh’. Soon the person realized that he had lost him, hence instead of continuing abruptly stopped and asked Rahul for his opinion. Rahul gave his opinion; however, it did not make him feel satisfied. This was clear from his facial expressions. He thanked Rahul and walked out. Rahul’s cabin was made up of glass walls hence one can see the entire office. After some time, I saw the same person engrossed in discussions with another staff member. From inside of the cabin I could not hear a single word but with their expression could clearly make out that they were enjoying the discussions. Few minutes later the same person walked in to get approval on some papers from Rahul. After he left, Rahul told me that he is the same gentleman, he was referring last night.

All of a sudden, I got the root cause of Rahul’s problem. One of the possible reasons could be his poor listening skills. Instead of giving a verbal response if listener keeps saying, ‘unh huh’ it annoys most people. I was reminded of a research study, which has proved that the managers who listen effectively are not only popular but are also perceived as being trustworthy and open by their team members. Apart from the study I shared with Rahul the advantages of good listening skills; an absolutely critical skill for all people, especially for those in management. I shared with him my own experience how active listening helped me garner greater attention and respect from the participants of my training programs. Two months later, Rahul called me, just to say thank. On my asking, he told me the tip that I gave him casually, has worked. He told me that he is noticing the change in the behavior of his staff members towards him….

(Excerpts from the book, ‘Why My Horse Doesn’t Listen – Learn to communicate effectively)

Vivek Mehrotra

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