In speaking to clients in numerous organisations and contexts, the incredibly positive picture that has emerged is how quickly and skillfully people and business have responded to the home working challenge.
IT has been upgraded, Microsoft Teams and Zoom has been installed and we have switched comfortably to connecting virtually. Well done all.
We’ve all been encouraged to learn the tips of home working. We’ve adapted our rooms to make our bookshelves look more high-brow and we have become skilled at virtual drinks and virtual pub quizzes. But have we upskilled ourselves in one of life’s most universally important skills – listening and really actively listening?
This is skill that we all can get better at, just ask your partner, children, colleague and staff. If you are honest with yourself when was the last time you really properly listened to anyone?
Author Nancy Kline (2014) summed it up best when she said: “Most people, including most professionals, listen to reply. Most people take in what they are hearing just enough to come up with something to say in response. They listen to comment, to advise, to diagnose, to determine a clever intervention, to direct. They are within seconds out of step and out of date with the thinker. The thinker knows this, and their thinking slows down. They can sense the gradual and then accelerated, revving to speak that people do as they listen.” (1)
How much more important it is to really listen in our lockdown virtual world? How often on a video call have you been taking in the other person’s surroundings, or staring at your own image wondering how long you can cope without taking the scissors to your hair. Much of the emotional content of a message usually comes through via visual cues, which are much more limited when all you’ve got to go on is a fuzzy image on the screen.
More importantly, think of all the things we are not learning by not listening properly. Do you really know what is going on in your colleague's, customer's, world as you talk to them, or are you making lots of assumptions based on your own experience? Do you really know what is most critical for them? How many times has your leader really tried to listen to you and find out, what is really concerning you at the moment or have they just tried to tell you what you can do to cope?