I am a good listener, I actively listen. I worked as a volunteer for 3 years for a well known helpline. I teach corporate courses on empathy and active listening. Can you see my fall (after my pride) coming?
On Friday I met 2 of my favourite external trainers for a project planning meeting. We did "hellos" and hugs. I asked the second colleagues how he was doing, sat down and rifled through my handbag for my pen and notebook.
He said something which I just didn't quite catch (it was in swiss german) and I bluffed it, so didn't make much of a response. My other colleague started laughing and said to me "Helen, is it possible that you didn't hear what S said?" I confessed, that yes, I hadn't caught it. Colleague "F" then said "Helen, "S" just told you that his flat burnt down.
Cue falling sensation....then slightly hysterical, horrified laughing from me, and genuine laughter from my colleagues.
I felt so horrible and embarrassed, that I had tried to bluff when I hadn't heard or really understand my colleague's response.
The moral of this story is:
If you ask a "how are you doing" question, even if you know the person really well, be sure to listen carefully to the answer.
Plus a bonus moral: It's never too late to relearn a skill you think you already have!