I was reading a Passle by James Barclay this week on how to enjoy more effective conversations. As he explains, more efficacious dialogue results in us being engaged, inspired and understood - but it takes effort.
And that got me thinking about listening - for good listening, which of course is a key part of any meaningful conversation is not as easy as it sounds (excuse the pun!). Aletheia Luna, writing for the Lonerwolf blog, cites G.K. Chesterton talking about the subject: “there’s a lot of difference between hearing and listening.”
And that's precisely the issue, people often feel they are listening but if they are doing so without really hearing what the other person is saying then is that really listening?
So, how to improve those attentiveness skills. Well, one starting point is the TED Blog which offers a compilation of some of the best talks on the importance of listening and how to improve at it: http://blog.ted.com/8-talks-on-the-importance-of-listening-and-how-to-do-a-much-better-job-of-it/
What better way to learn about listening skills, perhaps, than to take time out to listen and digest the wisdom of experts, such as Julian Treasure. He worryingly suggests that in an era of personal broadcasting, we are losing the art of conversation, which requires our media to scream at us with cacophonous headlines"in order to get our attention.And that means it's harder for us to pay attentionto the quiet, the subtle, the understated."
This observation seems to be borne out in the world's recent political decision-making, the moves by some towards government by Tweet and "alternative facts", and the pervading sense that many voices are ignored.
So, in a business sense what are we to do - with successful listening being shown to engender happier, more satisfied clients and more engaged, productive employees? Julie Bawden Davis, writing (below) for the American Express Open Forum a while back, offers us "5 ways to master the art of listening".
At the heart of her advice there are seemingly simple, common sense concepts of clarification and validation; straight forward in essence, but how many of us actually remember to put them into practice when speaking with others. She highlights the importance of asking perceptive questions, the need to qualify what you believe you've heard, and there's how to interpret and re-affirm what you think you've heard.
For me, it's clear that truly effective listening requires time and thought.
The final voice to be heard here should be that of Chris Majer, founder and CEO of the Human Potential Project who says: “I can listen to a point of view and not agree with it or act in accordance,” he says. “What matters is that I'm attentive and engaged, and that the customer or employee maintains dignity.”
Listening is also the key to managing the mood in a company. “A lack of listening can result in degenerative moods among employees, including mistrust, resignation and resentment," Majer says, "whereas employees who feel listened to experience improved mood fueled by ambition and confidence, which boosts productivity and ultimately profitability.” As business owners find themselves dealing with increasingly informed customers thanks to the explosion of technology, it becomes even more critical that they truly listen, Majer says. "Instead, the advantage is in customer service, and the essence of customer service is listening. When you really listen to customers and take their concerns seriously, they’re happy to do business with you, even if your prices are a bit higher.”