I heard a discussion on the topic of “listening” recently on a Harvard Business Review podcast which started with this as a pretext:
Most of us think we listen well. And, we really don’t.
Just like driving a car or self-evaluating our other abilities, when it comes to listening, we aren’t very good.
According to the podcast, we diminish our effective listening by trying to listen and to do other things at the same time.
Or, we enter into conversations more focused on what we wish to say as compared to focusing on what we could learn.
Or, we enter into conversations with the goal of ending them as quickly as we can. That focus on task alone rules out deeper understanding.
I have insight into good listening. I teach good listening. But, listening to the discussion, I have to admit there’s a good chance I don’t adequately practice what I preach.
I came away from the podcast committed/reminded of several things.
- I should start every listening conversation assuming I’m not good at it.If I take that humble position, I will purposefully check in and be alert to getting the most out of every interaction.
- I will listen intentionally knowing it will save time versus consume time. If I listen well, more will be shared. If I listen well, more complete solutions will be developed. If I listen well, false starts and reworks will be avoided. If I listen well, relationships will deepen and trust enhanced. Listening well strengthens our team.
- I will put aside distractions as I listen. Turn away from screens. Let calls go to voice mail. Pay attention to those in front of me right now. I will strive to notice more. Read body language. Hear the passion and meaning of what is said and what is not.
If I do these things, my skill and effectiveness as a listener will grow.
And, as better listening occurs, I will dedicate myself to listen better still. After all, I’m below average when it comes to listening.