In my introductory manufacturing course, we learned about the concept of “Designing for X.” The idea is simple: engineers can design for different goals and those goals can change the outcome. For example, let’s say you’re designing a car. You could choose to, ‘Design for Speed’, or ‘Design for Safety’, or ‘Design for Luxury’, or ‘Design for Recyclability’, or ‘Design for Fuel Efficiency’, or ‘Design for Low Cost.’ In each case, the intention (the X) changes the results: NASCAR, Volvo, Mercedes, etc.
What if we approached listening this way? That is, what if we considered the impact of different X’s we could be listening for? How would the outcomes of our listening change if we were intentional about these goals? Alternatively, consider the impact of not being intentional about what you’re listening for.
When we aren’t intentional about what we’re listening for, opportunities can be lost. Alternatively, when we pay attention to what we are listening for, we may discover less-than-productive answers to what we are listening for, such as, “Listening for a chance to talk”, “Listening for disagreement,” “Listening for mistakes,” “Listening for What to Use Against Someone,” or “Listening for Evidence to Prove I’m Right.”
Here’s a brainstorm of X’s we might listen for:
- Listen for Accuracy
- Listen for Comprehension and Understanding
- Listen for Sales
- Listen for Learning
- Listen for Emotions
- Listen for Suicidal Tendencies and/or Depression
- Listen for Deeper Motivations
- Listen for Building Community
- Listen for Showing Respect and Building Trust
- Listen for Inconsistencies
- Listen for Opinions
- Listen for Being Wrong
- Listen for What’s Not Being Said
- Listen for What We Want to Hear
- Listen for Complete Understanding
- Listen for the Speaker to Be Fully Understood
- Listen for Opportunity
- Listen for Evidence to Support What We Believe
- Listen for Evidence to Invalid What We Believe
- Listen for X <– You Decide!
So, what are you listening for in your conversations? Ask yourself in your next conversation, what are you listening for?
Practice: Look at your upcoming appointments: consider a few possible goals for your listening, and choose one or two to focus on. How does it change your outcomes? Share your results and thoughts in the comments below!
Question: What other X’s might you be listening for?
(If you’re intrigued about this Design for X concept, check out the Wikipedia page.)