Updated: Jan 26
In my recent experience, spending time at a Hospice, I experience first-hand that the sense of hearing is the last sense to go before death.
This famous quote attributed to Epictetus, a Greek philosopher who spent his youth as a slave in Rome before gaining freedom after the death of Nero, under whom he served until around 60 AD, said: “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak."
Good listening skills allow us to demonstrate that we are paying attention to the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of the other person (seeing the world through their eyes and having empathy). It also provides the ability to accurately receive and interpret messages in the communication process.
Listening is key to all effective communication, and without the ability to listen effectively, messages are easily misunderstood. As a result, communication breaks down and the sender of the message can easily become frustrated or irritated.
At this point in time, one of the most important skills we can use to the people around us is to simply listen. There are many friends, colleagues, and even family that need that listening year. It has been a time of great stress for everyone in the world.
Dr. Patrick Hyland, Ph.D., Director of Research and Development at Mercer | Sirota in a recent article said “During times like these, it is important to give your employees an opportunity to voice their questions, share their concerns, and identify emerging issues. Various studies have found that social support increases our resilience and ability to cope. Listening to your employees is an effective way to provide support and solve organizational problems.”
The above can also be said about family too, especially with kids, teenagers. I have a teenager and some of you would agree it takes some part of magic, effort, and tons of patience, and sometimes, no talking, and just mindful listening helps.
On the Mindtools website, Mindful listening is defined as a way of listening without judgment, criticism or interruption, while being aware of internal thoughts and reactions that may get in the way of people communicating with you effectively.
With so much clutter in the world, as we are constantly bombarded with information be it through social media, word of mouth, our own personal networks, adding Brands to that mix, everyone trying to get our undivided attention, there is no room to be still, discern and listen.
In a recent article by Kathy Bryan, on Brands must take care to create impact, not clutter, she explains that brands need to listen to consumers and engage in their active communications.
Sarah Cavill further expands on how Brands should offer conversations to deepen their customer relationships, especially in this digital age.
What does not come as a surprise is that any interaction, whether human or via chatbots within e-commerce process are very welcomed. More than 60% of customers say that they prefer digital self-serve tools, such as websites, apps, or chatbots to answer their simple inquiries.
Research by Robin Barrett Wilson, states that some people still want to interact with a sales associate in a physical store, while other prefer to talk to a customer support person online, in a chat, or through an e-mail or Zoom. Why do we still want this?
It’s simply because we still like “someone/anyone” to listen to us.
The famous TED Speaker Julian Treasure, “Listening is key,” he says, “because what’s the point of speaking if nobody’s listening?
Treasure’s advice for leaders centres not on how we can be heard, but how we can listen and gives 5 ways to listen better.
I leave you with my own 5 pointers which I have used in my career, but before you start listening, put your phone away and on silent mode.
1. Make sure your body language reveals your interest;
2. Stay engaged;
3. Resist the urge to interrupt; (This is my most difficult part)
4. Ask questions to clarify and reaffirm that you understand;
5. Practice empathetic listening
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