I’m All Ears – The Art of Listening
11 Friday Nov 2016
Is anyone listening?
When I work with groups in my corporate gigs, I teach soft skills in leadership and communication. I teach conflict resolution and how to give productive, well accepted feedback that doesn’t escalate to conflict. But…
Emotions are running high lately in our society. We do have conflict.
Some people are refusing to accept our reality. Some people are upset and reeling. Some people are stunned and surprised. But, is anyone really listening?
When I teach communication classes I tell the participants how important it is to get agreement with stakeholders before proceeding to next steps. Here is the key:
If the agreement comes too easily, you probably have a problem. Yep, read that one again….
Easy agreement often means the other person hasn’t been actively participating in the conversation. They have no stake in what you say and they have no ideas to add. Do you really think they’ll follow you and your idea to fruition? I’ll give you this – sometimes, you’ll get 100% agreement immediately. That isn’t always a good sign either, because it could indicate Groupthink – a very poor decision making condition. Know this – Silence is NOT consent.
So, why would they pretend? Sometimes, people will agree just to get you out of their hair. Maybe they don’t trust you. It might be because you’re overbearing, disrespectful, aggressive, too loud, not listening, shaming or guilting them into agreement. If you get too ugly, they’ll agree and will move on quietly not supporting, or worse, undermining your project. They might even passive-aggressively do their own thing after your conversation. BUT, if you engage them in dialogue, if you actively listen, if you HEAR them, and perhaps make some adjustments to accommodate their concerns and ideas, you’ll have a loyal partner. Be warned:
You can’t fake an open mind. (click to Tweet)
It seems many of us have had the luxury of having most things our way for a long time. Maybe we forgot to listen to new ideas and new views. It’s also seductive, when something is super important to us, to go for the win, rather than agreement. The best agreements are two-sided and represent everyone. We find strength is in diversity – that goes for diversity of ideas, too! Listening is paramount.
I’m not writing this solely to address current events. These skills come in handy in ALL our relationships. Do you want your child to continue to confide in you? Engage them in respectful dialogue and listen rather than shaming and punishing. The same goes for your spouse, partner and business associates.
Employ empathy. How would you feel in their situation given their concerns? Surely, when you listen carefully, you can relate. This skill lends itself to acceptance, forgiveness and cooperation.
What are we missing, America? This isn’t rocket science. It’s how people get along, or don’t. Have we stopped teaching this? Did we ever? Is the volume on the propaganda and media noise so loud we cannot hear over it? You’re responsible. You’re responsible for the quality of the communication you deliver. What’s more, the quality of your communication creates the quality of your relationships (click to Tweet). So, that’s your life, folks…as series of relationships. Make them authentic, inclusive and full of joyful exchanges.
That’s all I have to say about that. Now, I will be quiet and listen. You may leave comments below.
I’m All Ears,
Michelle Andres is a writer, artist and corporate refugee, who still consults for leadership projects. She is a certified executive coach and has a Master of Organization Development from University of San Francisco. Mostly, she enjoys making art, which you can see here.
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