This year-end column will be short and to the point. In a climate of echo chambers and hyper-partisanship, let’s resolve in the new year to do a better job of listening.
The importance of listening extends well beyond our political discourse. Our corporate hallways are full of people who feel they aren’t being heard. People such as those of diverse backgrounds, under-represented in our offices and the C-suite, whose voices are not being properly shared.
The #MeToo movement is finally giving voice to so many women who either weren’t heard or who felt they weren’t in a position to speak up.
Junior staff often feel intimidated by hierarchical structures resulting in companies missing out on innovative, creative ideas, often by people representing the very demographic they’re trying to reach.
Introverts who don’t dominate meetings the way extroverts do, but who often have the most insightful, compelling ideas. We need to better listen, to draw out these insights and ideas.
I’m also a big advocate of greater use of FaceTime and other video-calling platforms. We all know that during in-person conversations and presentations, much of our listening is done with our eyes. We read the room. We read responses and adapt accordingly. Some experts suggest up to 50% of communications is non-verbal. If so, take advantage of the tools you have. Listen better.
Listening, according to Wikipedia, involves complex affective, cognitive, and behavioral processes. How many of us really concentrate when we listen?
For the new year, let’s commit to trying harder, to being open to more ideas, and embracing a diversity of opinions. Listening is not easy. But it’s achievable with effort.
Bob Feldman is cofounder and principal of PulsePoint Group, a digital and management consulting firm. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.