Friday, July 08, 2005

Must Listen

The skill is rarely practiced in our world. I’m talking about the ability to listen and listen deeply to the person who is speaking. It’s another characteristic which I’ve observed from my interaction and interviews with bestselling authors.

Some times the intensity of the listening from these authors surprises me. Several years ago I interviewed an author for a magazine article. As we talked, this author was constantly analyzing the conversation and what I would be doing with the information I was gathering from our time. At several points, he abruptly switched gears for our conversation saying, “But why are we talking about this? The reader doesn’t care about ______.” So I berudging pressed on to a different topic—despite my own fascination and internally muttering, Who is controlling this interview? Thinking back on that time, the author impressed me with his intense listening skills. It’s rare but a quality I’ve seen repeatedly.

As we listen to others, we gain insight into their world, their particular audience and their particular market. The successful authors are eager to improve and some of that improvement comes from their listening ability.

One of the keys from my perspective regarding listening is to evaluate the information as you gain it. These authors listen but they consider the information and use some of it and discount other parts of it. If you feel like your listening skills could use a bit of tune up, let me recommend a resource. When I was the acquisitions editor at another publisher, I wrote and called a number of my bestselling author friends looking for leads on new projects (something else an acquisitions editor does to find exciting work). Gary Smalley recommended two friends who had been teaching for over twenty years on listening yet never gathered this material into a book. Ultimately I acquired that book for the publishers and even helped in the writing and editing process to get it completed. Dallas and Nancy Demmitt wrote Can You Hear Me Now? As Gary Smalley wrote about the book, “Prepare to experience the power of listening.”

You may think your listening skills are in great shape. I’d encourage you to work on constantly improving in this area. It’s one of those skills that constantly need honing—and like our writing.

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