Listening Is Understanding

No man ever listened himself out of a job.



NOW THAT YOU’VE PREPARED yourself to present your designs and anticipated what the responses will be, you have the opportunity to actually meet face to face with the people who have influence over the project. This is where our skill at communicating really begins, but not because of anything that we say. The first thing we need to do is listen.

Listening is an important skill for every relationship, and it’s no different when discussing design decisions. Listening isn’t just waiting for the other person to stop speaking so that we can begin our response. The entire purpose of careful listening is to ensure that we understand our stakeholders before responding.

A proper and articulate response requires that we use implicit skills such as listening without interrupting, hearing what they’re not saying, uncovering the actual problem they’re trying to solve, and then pausing before moving on. We also must use more explicit techniques like taking notes, asking questions, and repeating or rephrasing what was said. Using these tactics, we can outwardly demonstrate that we understand what they’re saying. Because most stakeholders don’t speak our designer jargon, we must listen closely for the clues that will help us to attach their words to our designs, and when we respond, we need to use language that ...

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