Dead End Listening

It's not listening at all, really.

In his book, Leadership Gold, John Maxwell shares a funny and impactful story he found in Jim Lange's book, Bleedership. Here's how it goes:

A couple of rednecks are out in the woods hunting when one of them falls to the ground. He doesn't seem to be breathing and his eyes are rolled back in his head.

The other guy whips out his cell phone and calls 911.

He frantically tells the operator, "Bubba is dead! What can I do?"

The operator, in a calm, soothing voice says, "Just take it easy. I can help. First, let's make sure he's dead."

There's silence, and a then a shot is heard.

The guy's voice comes back on the line and says, "Okay, now what?"

This can happen in all kinds of communication. Not just in face to face conversation, but just as often in written communication - email and text. We don't always finish reading, or we lose focus toward the end - after all, we know where they're headed. Right.

I do this.  Not a lot, but enough.

Just the other day, I had a meeting scheduled with a former colleague and friend. Our meeting was scheduled at 9am and I was headed there on time. I arrived 40 minutes late. Why? Because I did not listen through. Classic dead end listening.

Upon scheduling, he emailed me the address of his location. But I already knew the address, so I didn't really process it (dead end listening!). I plugged it into my phone, though I'm not sure why, since I knew where it was. As I got closer, the phone directed me right, when I knew I should turn left. But I decided to trust it and turned right. It was a bank. So I turned around and went to where I knew it was and found out it wasn't. So I decided to trust my phone address (the wrong one that I knew was the right one) and headed back to the bank, thinking it may be a shared office. There the teller suggested my original (wrong) address might actually be right - the corporate offices are in the back. Eureka! That must be it. No, it wasn't. There was an office, but it was not the right one. But I was fortunate enough to meet someone at that office who happened to know my guy and gave me the right address. Which was the one he sent me in the email!!!!

Dead end listening cost me 40 minutes. Fortunately, my friend found it funny, and we rocked on with a great conversation.

How many times have we shot the message before it was complete? Have you ever finished someone's sentence because you just knew where they were going with it? Even if you were right, what value does the messenger gain from you finishing their thought?

Or, perhaps you were Bubba.