Are you listening, really listening?

Often in a meeting we will simply stop and observe – Who is not listening? Who is not speaking?. A simple observation can provide valuable insight on the current capacity for relationship and trust in a team.

As we observe the speaker, its not just the amount of air time they “consume”, its also the mood they convey as they are speaking. As we observe the listener, it’s not just the silence they provide, it’s the level of curiosity they create as someone is speaking.

You see, the difference lies in the intention- when we speak with the intention to authentically share and discuss, an opening is created.  When we listen with the intention to truly understand another perspective, we open the doors to learning and growing.

Too often we speak with the intention of telling- and we listen with the sole intention of “waiting them out” so we can speak again, all the while sitting in judgment of the speaker.

Its sad, actually sad, to see a team with the capacity to be extra-ordinary settle for status quo because there is little authentic communication.  A lot of talking, not a lot of understanding, or learning.  What a shame.  What a lost opportunity.

When a leader actually engages their team, and allows the team to engage with each other – the level of sharing, trust and connection can be felt like you might feel the temperature in a room change.  You can actually feel the energy shift of an aligned team where ideas are exchanged without fear of judgment or reprisal, in the spirit of learning and exploration, and debate is productive.

What if we really valued listening, really hearing another’s point of view?

The main concern with listening is that it takes too much time. There is so much to do, and so little time in which to do it. We sacrifice listening for perceived speed. What we really sacrifice, however, is genuine understanding.  We sacrifice an opportunity to expand our perspective- and learn something.  And we sacrifice the possibility of  establishing an authentic, trusting connection with another human being.

An old indigenous saying goes “If you want to go quick, go alone; if you want to go far – go together”.

When we take the time and focus to engage with another point of view we actually see more.  No two points of view are alike and in the spirit of learning – that can be a very good thing.  We expand our field of vision, and connect in a way which allows us to become more effective- to “go farther” than we knew we could.

Steven Covey tells a terrific story about observing himself as he spoke abouthis son. He says “I don’t understand my son…he wont listen to me”. Read that again if you would. Do you hear it? Do you see it? If you want to understand someone, you would listen- truly listen- to them.

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