As toddlers, it’s one of the first things we learn how to do. Then we go off to Kindergarten and get years of practice. We listen to our teachers, our classmates, our music instructors, our coaches, and our clergy. We listen to our friends, neighbors, siblings, and teammates. Some of us even grow up listening to imaginary friends. But how many of us are really listening?
The kind of listening practice I’ve just described is really more about hearing, or obeying, or sometimes (regrettably) even fearing. We then grow up, go off to college or other forms of advanced training, and get jobs. Some of us get government jobs. But once we’re in these jobs, we’re expected to know how to listen to one another. The need becomes even more acute during one’s first formal supervisory experience, but it’s no less valuable for any other role in an organization.
- When we listen, we show respect and build relationships.
- When we listen, we pick up on things we would have otherwise missed.
- When we listen, we have more data to make decisions.
- When we listen, we make strategic linkages in our heads.
Human resources professionals are often seen as the “paid listeners” of an organization — there to hear an EEO complaint or listen to the uncomfortable details of an employee dispute. But who is listening when no one’s listening? With a little practice, it could be you.
What does listening mean to you?