A couple of women approached me today at an S-Bahn stop. One of them began speaking to me in German. Surely, they are looking for directions, I thought. “I’m sorry, I don’t speak German. Do you speak English?” As we proceeded to communicate in my second yet primary language, I wasn’t exactly surprised with how I instinctively knew they needed direction (but I was delighted that I knew exactly how to send them to Landsbergerstraße). The thing is, I’ve been listening to German and Germans for a while. I’ve been training for this.
At IBM, I first started to carefully listen on cross-Atlantic calls with my far away colleagues and clients. It’s then I learned that certain words, like “interesting”, have different meanings, depending on the context.
Almost 2 years later, as a frequent and somewhat experienced Bavarian visitor, I recently have been listening at conferences and networking events presentations. I’ve had to develop another faculty for listening beyond my ears. See, I still don’t understand the words so I now listen for situations, tone, body language, audience engagement and reactions. I use my eyes and somewhat of a 6th sense or feeling to help me listen. I appreciate and understand context in communications so much more.
Being challenged to learn new skills: that’s one of the things I love about being in Germany.