Tag Archives: Listening
When you are interacting with others what is your mind set? Are you looking for their reaction to you or are you looking to learn more about them? The first approach is egocentric and means you are more concerned about being interesting. The second approach is focused on others and means you are more concerned about what the other person has to say. If you think about past experiences, when someone listened to you it left you feeling much better than if they spent the time talking about themselves.
Truly connecting with people means that you must be concerned with what is going for them, and interested in what they have to say. It’s a two way street. You hear them and they hear you. If one of you is doing all the talking then there is no real connection going on.
This issue can show up during an introduction or during an interaction with someone you know already. If you are a boss and are meeting one-on-one with an employee are you doing the talking or are you listening? It’s important to listen more than you talk when you are engaging with someone. It gives them a sense that you value what they have to say which leads to them feeling valued. Even if you are giving feedback or direction it’s important to take the time to listen to their perspective on what you shared.
Additionally as a leader you need to be interested in what is important to your team. This means that you have to take the time to listen to their concerns and issues. If you are genuinely interested in what is going on with others, they will feel respected and trusted. If you are consistent in this approach people will trust you to be there for them. You have shown that their interests matter to you.
You don’t have to have all the solutions to their problems, in fact its better if you help them find their own solutions. One of the best bosses I ever had would let me vent about a situation and then ask me how I was going to handle it. He rarely offered solutions, unless I specifically asked and even then he would find a way to make me figure it out. During that same time I had regular contact with another manager who when you shared your problems he would jump in to solve them. While I was frustrated with my boss on occasion because I would have loved some guidance, I actually felt more empowered and valued in that relationship. I liked the other manager a lot, and yet at times I felt like he didn’t trust me or my team to find the solution. While I liked both of them, I respected and trusted my boss more because my success seemed to matter more to him.
The amazing thing about being genuinely interested in others is that they will respond by caring about your interests. Putting others first shows that you are willing to help them reach their goals and objectives. In turn they will want to know what matters to you and will help you with your goals and objectives. Focus your efforts in being interested in others instead of being interesting to others. You will get more trust, respect and assistance in return.
The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.
As a leader in your organization I’m sure you listen to what your team is telling you. The real question is whether you listen to the things that are left unsaid. Often, people are afraid to speak up and tell their bosses what is really going on and causing issues for the team. These things may be personality issues, resource issues, training issues or a lack of understanding what is expected. Take the time to “listen” to the unheard items to find out what is really going on in your organization. The Chinese parable below illustrates this principle.
The Sound of the Forest
Back in the third century A.D., the King Ts’ao sent his son, Prince T’ai, to the temple to study under the great master Pan Ku. Because Prince T’ai was to succeed his father as king, Pan Ku was to teach the boy the basics of being a good ruler. When the prince arrived at the temple, the master sent him alone to the Ming-Li Forest. After one year, the prince was to return to the temple to describe the sound of the forest.
When Prince T’ai returned, Pan Ku asked the boy to describe all that he could hear. “Master,” replied the prince, “I could hear the cuckoos sing, the leaves rustle, the hummingbirds hum, the crickets chirp, the grass blow, the bees buzz, and the wind whisper and holler.” When the prince had finished, the master told him to go back to the forest to listen to what more he could hear. The prince was puzzled by the master’s request. Had he not discerned every sound already?
For days and nights on end, the young prince sat alone in the forest listening. But he heard no sounds other than those he had already heard. Then one morning, as the prince sat silently beneath the trees, he started to discern faint sounds unlike those he had ever heard before. The more acutely he listened, the clearer the sounds became. The feeling of enlightenment enveloped the boy. “These must be the sounds the master wished me to discern,” he reflected.
When Prince T’ai returned to the temple, the master asked him what more he had heard. “Master,” responded the prince reverently, “when I listened most closely, I could hear the unheard—the sound of flowers opening, the sound of the sun warming the earth, and the sound of the grass drinking the morning dew.” The master nodded approvingly. “To hear the unheard,” remarked Pan Ku, “is a necessary discipline to be a good ruler. For only when a ruler has learned to listen closely to the people’s hearts, hearing their feelings uncommunicated, pains unexpressed, and complaints not spoken of, can he hope to inspire confidence in his people, understand when something is wrong, and meet the true needs of his citizens. The demise of states comes when leaders listen only to superficial words and do not penetrate deeply into the souls of the people to hear their true opinions, feelings, and desires.”