An important topic of discussion lately is the current level of misunderstanding and contentiousness in work, social and political interactions. When looking through multiple lenses: our personal views, articles, books, and interviews; some troubling questions rise to the surface:
- Do we understand what is happening in our world today?
- Are we okay with it?
- How did we get to this place of such contentious human interactions and relationships?
- How is this impacting our economy and businesses?
- What is one of the most significant changes that we can make to alter our path?
- Will we choose to do so?
Admittedly, the last three questions above are the primary focus today. Articles, books, interviews, and op-eds collectively express many different opinions. While there are many differences, there exists a common thread across most of them.
That thread is listening. Let us start with the function of effective listening. Effective listening allows us to understand and make sense of a different point of view. Understanding that difference enables the team to fully comprehend the actions needed to stay on track to be productive.
Listening is a funny thing. You can listen to respond or snark back, or you can listen to learn. Listening only to respond is a checklist item, to say you did it. We appear to be gravitating more and more to listening to respond. We need to listen to learn, understand and empathize.
If we only listen to respond, we don’t necessarily: learn anything, grow, alter our course from a position of knowledge, or develop connections with people. It can also appear to devalue others. The outcome is about getting what we want versus what might be best overall for the subject at hand.
On the other hand, if we listen to learn, many opportunities become available. We may be able to:
- develop a more holistic grasp on the subject.
- enable more informed decisions.
- discover course corrections by better understanding impacts and consequences or establish mutual trust and respect with the people involved.
Listening to learn indicates we value others’ opinions even when we disagree. A significant outgrowth is that all of us feel valued and accepted. In addition, we start to appreciate the many facets that influence the environment, be it work, social, or policy.
Why is this contentiousness happening? Again, a few troubling questions:
- Do they feel valued and that their opinion matters?
- Do they feel accepted?
- Do they understand without ambiguity the direction the team/organization is taking?
- Do they feel connected to the team, mission, and organization?
- Do they feel leadership fully understands the impacts and consequences?
Relationships, Leadership, and Listening are all 2-way streets. Being effective in life, work, policy, or any other area is also a 2-way street, because it all depends on people. People as humans want connections, purpose, and understanding.
I read that one characteristic that executive recruiters are looking for in CEOs post-Covid, is effective listening. Why do you suppose that is?
Thank you for reading this article to the end. As you sit back pondering the significance of 2-way streets, what can you do to be a more effective listener?
If you are not sure, please ask someone. It might be an enlightening journey. Will you choose to do so?