We learn from an early age how important it is to successfully communicate and express ourselves in order to get our point across. However, no less important is the ability to listen to others. Now, here is where we often face a challenge. Listening doesn’t mean waiting for a pause in the conversation just so that you can say the next thing that is on YOUR mind. Listening is more than that. It’s being present with the other person and getting, truly grasping and understanding, the other person’s complete thoughts and where that person is coming from.
The Role of Listening for Humanity
If we lived in this world in complete solitude, all we’d have to count on would be our senses, our thoughts, and our emotions. We would not need any input from others. Along with that, we wouldn’t have anyone else with whom to share our thoughts!
Reality is different. It is natural human behavior to share thoughts and experiences with those around us. This interaction is what allows our species to continuously develop on so many levels. So how do YOU interact and develop?
Your Approach to Listening
Each day, you are surrounded by people. You may think that some of these people are really smart. You may even think this to such an extent that you hang on their every word or are even willing to pay for their thoughts or advice. Others though, you don’t quite view in the same way. For some reason, the things that these people have to say just don’t seem as valuable to you. But who are these people? They may live close to you and share many experiences with you. They could be your family members, maybe your friends, possibly colleagues, your employees, or even managers at your workplace.
Something funny happens when we engage in conversation with these people. Once the conversation begins with them, we think that we already know what they are going to say. More than that, we think we know what they mean, often before they even begin speaking… Gee! It’s almost as if we think we are born with the incredible talent of mind reading… (which tends not to be the case!).
As a leader, you want to deal with the actual reality, not with your interpretation of reality. Therefore, you need to use the skill of listening quite frequently and in an effective way.
Assess Your Own Listening
Next time you have a discussion with one of the people mentioned before, whether a friend, employee, or colleague, ask yourself the following:
How much can I actually remember of what this person just said?
Can I explain the main point of what was just said to others?
Do I understand (although that doesn’t always mean agree with) where the person was coming from when he or she shared the opinion?
What if the person who you were now listening to was an employee with a new idea that could increase your company’s profit or make a major difference for your organization? Would this change how you listen?
Share with us what you gained when you tried a different approach to listening. And stay tuned to learn some of the great reasons to listen that actually benefit YOU!