The previous post begins to explore the case for listening better. This post is meant to begin a conversation about what gets in the way of listening.
I imagine that our cave-person ancestors were good listeners. It was a matter of survival, after all, that they’d be able to hear the animals that were either their next meal or that might eat them. I imagine they would also gather together to have tribal dialog, where respect and listening went hand in hand; the tribe’s safety depended on it. Our ancestor’s ears were turned on and listening all the time.
But then, they didn’t have telephones, televisions, Blackberries, or Outlook alerts. They didn’t have our face-paced organizations that must move quicker than the competition.
Yet these technological gadgets, which certainly can distract us from truly listening to others, are the surface of the problem that causes poor listening skills. Distractions, technical or not, are simply an excuse to hide a belief that we try to hide from our fully conscious self.
The truth is that we think we know more than others. We believe that we have the right answers and that our peers and employees don’t have anything of value to add. Their knowledge, opinions, and humanity don’t count. This is what really keeps us from listening. The gadgets are only an excuse.
There. Kind person though I may be, I’ve wanted to say that for a very long time.
If we believed that others were important, that they even might have the possibility of being bright, capable, creative and able to add value, the distractions wouldn’t matter. We’d be able to dismiss the distractions and be fully present and able to listen deeply to others.
Do you value others and what they have to say? Ask yourself that, and if the answer is “yes”, you’re on your way to becoming a better listener and, quite possibly, a phenomenal leader.
Next week: How to listen better, in two parts.