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Leadership Thought #421 – Listening Is A Lost Art


A conversation without listening is merely the exchange of two monologues.  If we limit our exchange of information to what we already know or believe, we are limiting our capacity to learn, grow and have healthy relationships.  Almost everyday you witness evidence of public or private figures that really have no interest in hearing what anyone else is saying.  It has become common practice to become intractable in your views and block out any contrary evidence.  In reality, our society tends to reward brashness and poor behavior these days.  Just look at who dominates the airwaves.

I had a wonderful mentor who told me many years ago that you need to “listen until hurts.”  He wisely surmised that this was not a natural strength for me.  I was regularly in a state of always preparing to talk rather than practicing conscious listening.  Unsurprisingly, I often had a difficult time with people who had a different point of view from mine.  It became apparent to me that my confidence quickly became arrogance and smugness from the other person’s perspective.

For another person to have a true connection with you they need to feel like you care about what they have to say.  No one likes to be lectured to.    This doesn’t mean that all opinions are created equal or that facts don’t matter.  However, never discount how stubbornly someone will cling to a position if they feel attacked or threatened.  To be open to alternative thinking, you must feel safe in the relationship. 

Lately, I believe our culture has become so fixated on being right that individually and collectively we can’t accept the premise of being wrong or only partially right.  The American tendency to “one up” the other person is our intellectual Achilles heel.  The whole concept of “exceptionalism” is a very slippery slope.  The truth is that that no one has the market cornered on good ideas or an unblemished track record.  Time and time again it has been proven that heterogeneous groups with diverse points of view make better decisions than strong willed individuals or groups who act in a homogenous fashion.

Listening has become a lost art.  I encourage you to try listening until it hurts. Do your best to be present in and stay focused on one conversation at a time.  Avoid technological distractions.  Strive not to rush to judgment especially when emotionally triggered, but instead embrace the idea of learning from every interaction.  Interestingly enough you will find that people will open up more in front of you and end up lauding you as a good conversationalist.

9 Responses

  1. Excellent reminders. Thank you. I’m off to practice.

  2. Excellent points. I might add that one-upping is not nearly as disturbing as ignorance and apathy towards doing what is right even though people did listen well enough. A fine but nasty difference. Nice post. RW

  3. Great post, Ed.
    Concise and to the point. I found myself relating to each of your points. I am going to try to “listen until hurts”.

  4. […] Leadership Thought #421 – Listening Is A Lost Art (edrobinson.wordpress.com) […]

  5. Well said. At Successful Transition Planning Institute, we work to train consultantt to spend a lot of time listening – we have to screen out those who do not – and THAT hurts, but is well worth it.

  6. I do agree that we have lost the ability to listen, and that we try to find a space to argue our point of view. However, it is important that just listen also drive you to a one way communication.
    As a person that tries to givea better scope to the conversation, it is also useful to redirect conversation participating with some specific questions. That may allow to the person we are listening to try to focus on what we think is important to remark.

  7. Reblogged this on Innovation Blind Passes and commented:
    A very interesting article on the listening art (by edrobinson.wordpress.com)….I found this reading very interesting, especially in connection with what I’m writing in the “Project Management and the Emotional Buy-in (Part II)” (coming soon).

  8. […] via Leadership Thought #421 – Listening Is A Lost Art. […]

  9. […] Leadership Thought #421 – Listening Is A Lost Art (edrobinson.wordpress.com) […]

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