Tug boat attentiveness – lessons in listening

posted in: Communication, Customer Service | 0

This morning I paused on my morning walk to stand on the ridge above my house overlooking the bay. I watched two bright red tug boats bring a large container ship into the harbour. Against the back drop of the grey steel hull they looked like bath toys bouncing on the waves.

I watched fascinated as they worked together to bring the ship to a safe berth. It got me thinking about the communication that must have been needed to guarantee a safe arrival. Imagine if one of the tug masters was texting as instructions came over the radio from the other tug, or if the ship’s captain was trying to email home while the tug master was giving him instructions. Chaos would have reigned. There may have been consequences that resulted in lost lives, or at the very least, cost millions of dollars in damage.

Now I know that many of our daily situations are neither life threatening nor potentially going to cost us millions. However, lack of attention to what is being communicated could well result in workplace mistakes, misinterpreted instructions and unnecessary drama.

Attentiveness means paying close attention— and to listen well we need to be attentive. This means blocking out distractions and focusing on the person we are communicating with. Do you find it frustrating when you are talking to someone and all you can hear is the tap, tap of the keyboard? You know by the longer pauses or the half-hearted uh huh, that you haven’t got their full attention.

To listen well we need to:

  • be present
  • use our eyes as well as our ears–if the body language doesn’t match up with what is being said,  body language will be believed over verbal responses
  • respect a speakers verbal and nonverbal messages
  • avoid distractions

“In terms of career success, numerous studies illustrate that listening is one of the top five skills expected of employees and that mistakes and loss of sales result when employees listen in an ineffective manner.” (Shelley D. Lane: Interpersonal Communication 2nd Edition 2010




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