I remember my report cards as a child and they all had written on them “poor listener.”

So it confused me when a few years back (okay more than a few)  I was asking what I need to work on and what continually came back from people is “well not listening, you are a great listener”.  I would laugh and say, “no I am not. I can show you my report cards and how that has been a weakness my whole life.”

Then one friend offered some insight I hadn’t thought of before.  She said, “Anne when the teacher gave an assignment did you always do it exactly like she asked?”  I said, “No” if it didn’t make sense or I thought I could do it better or faster a different way I would do that instead.  For example, I remember my first grade teacher telling us we had to draw a snowman before we could do recess.  She then put out stacks of colored paper.  I thought it was ridiculous to color in a white snowman so I went to the copy paper area, got a piece of white paper and drew my snowman lickety split.  She didn’t like that.”

So my friend said, “You are always thinking of how to do things more efficiently so consequently in school that meant you didn’t always do things the way the teacher asked.  So it wasn’t that you weren’t listening, it was that you saw a better way of doing things.  They just interpreted as that you didn’t listen.”

Now here is the important part– you will always get feedback on what you do well and what you can improve on.  Your job is to make sure you get the background information- the why- they think that about you so you can put the feedback in to the right context.  As a kid I didn’t get to do that with the teacher but as I got older I would always ask the “why” behind the “what” so that I knew exactly what to work on.

TAKE ACTION:  Try to find one area of your life that you need to improve.  Find out “what” you are doing that is off and then have others help you with the “why”.  Then just try to change the one thing.  I became perceived as a great listener because I started to explain to others “why” I was doing something different than asked rather than just doing it.  I never thought that one thing could spring me from being perceived as a “poor listener” to being an “insightful thinker.”

Let me know what you find out and what you change as I am dedicated to your success with Outcome Thinking.

Anne Warfield, Impression Management Professionals