Listening is a skill to have, reflecting is a skill must have

Found this book while connecting flights at Hong Kong Airport. If you don’t read Mandarine, then the English title of the book (as you can see) is: “Time isn’t the problem. You are!”. So true!

Key takeaways:

  • many people listen but not really listening;
  • pick up a message and think is essential for personal growth;
  • getting an advise is about listening but require actions to achieve goals;

Apart from teaching students in the university, I spend 70% of my time on research. The interesting thing about working in a world top 50 university is that I get to work with very smart students and of course, colleagues. I often have meetings with my research students on a weekly basis. In addition to research progress, I also spend time coaching my students about personal development and skills to improve work efficiency. Most supervisors don’t do this with their students, but I feel that it is my responsibility to ensure that my students, besides getting a higher degree from our university, also poses enough ‘assets’ to face whatever challenges they will have after leaving my lab. I want them to be the best version of themselves after leaving my lab.

Over the years, I have noticed something: some students listen and some don’t for various reasons. For those who listen, some actually take actions but some still don’t. My job as a research supervisor is to provide my best advises to students but for most projects, I don’t want to force my ideas through because I’d like students to think and come up with creative ideas; I don’t want them to follow my ‘command’ and become a labour. That’s not what research and innovation is about.

Once I asked a student whether he listened to me some time ago when we discussed an idea; he said yes. Then I asked why he didn’t do it the way I suggested since he listened; then, he said: “I don’t know.” Hmmm…. that’s strange. If someone has listened, then why the action is different from the message the person has received?

Think over a cup of good tea. Enjoy the moment. Think, reflect and take action. This is how you can stand out in the crowd.

The immediate impact of this situation is on the success of research outcome. Students who listened tended to finish works faster and worked more efficiently than those who listened but took no actions. For those who didn’t listen, it took longer to get the message (i.e. to actually listen) and significantly longer to take actions and get results.

In a conversation with a potential coaching client last week, we happened to come across this topic. The client felt the same way and admitted that he was a ‘classic example’ who either didn’t listen (didn’t pay attention to) or listened but didn’t take actions. Why? I asked the client. “I don’t know. I thought it didn’t matter.” Then I asked him: “Do you still think listening doesn’t matter?” “No, I have realised that it costed me more time and efforts to finish jobs. Should I have listened, I would have done it more easily and faster.

Indeed, outcomes depend on actions and actions come from reflections. Reflections are triggered from listening or learning. That’s exactly how it works!

Some time ago, I wrote a blog post lamenting why people know what to do but choose not to do it. Knowing is different from doing because knowing something is easier than spending the extra efforts to act. To make things happen, one needs to reflect learned knowledge on particular circumstances. Without reflections on these circumstances, things won’t happen and reflection takes time to occur.

Listening is a skill to have because the people who is talking can always ‘feel’ how well the other person is engaged in the conversation. Our body language honestly reveals our subconscious thoughts and this is the case for ordinary people (well, spies may be able to do better!). Listening builds trust with the person who is talking. We also learn things via listening. Then, why people still don’t take actions after listening? That’s because some people haven’t spent time on reflection.

Listening is a skill to have because it builds trust with people and also we learn things by listening. Reflecting is a skill must have because it turns learned knowledge into actions.

There are so many people who want to lose weight and my client is one of them. There are so many products on the market to help weight loss and so much information on the Internet to teach people how to lose weight. But, how many have managed losing weight? Then I told my client the ‘secret’ of weight loss as a ‘bonus’ of our coaching session! If you want to lose weight, then I can teach you how to lose weight by not doing serious exercises. If you want to know how, then subscribe to this blog and I will reveal it in my next blog post. ^_<

Dr. C. Richard Wu @

Found this blue sky on a cold winter day in Sydney.

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