Have We Forgotten How to Listen?

It wasn’t all that long ago that if one accidentally nudged the CapsLk key AND WROTE SOMETHING before realising, one would tut, delete and start again. Nowadays however it’s often more common to apologise for ‘shouting’ (followed by the ubiquitous LOL).

We shout a lot these days. But we seem to have forgotten how to listen. Even if we are listening it is, more often than at any time in the history of mankind, within our own bubble as we plug in the earphones and pull up the audio drawbridge.

There’s a lot of shouting on social media too, which has turned us all into miniature broadcasting stations. Take this blog for example. Go back a few years and I would’ve been declaiming this atop a soap box in Speakers’ Corner but now I can tweet about it, foist it upon friends and associates through emails or even let Google shout about it for me!

This week comes the news that commuting on the Tube equates to “being at a rock concert” in some sections of the Northern, Jubilee and Central lines. Hadn’t really noticed? That’s because every day our ears are bombarded by a cacophony of noise and yet the brain manages to filter the fuzz allowing us to focus on the audio information that is important.

Not listening is a big problem in every business. The ability to stop, forget about you, and hear what someone is saying, is a courtesy that seems to have eroded as the modern world has got louder.

Most people are under the impression that business is all about getting your point across. Well, in some respects it is, but too few grasp the fact that interaction with another person is a two way process: I talk, you listen. You talk, I listen.

Dealing with deities, despots or dictators aside (see what I did there by the way?!), in the history of deals, few have been made where just one person talks. That’s because deals, when signing on the dotted line, are dependent on the give and take of relationships.

At every level of business, many firms suffer because people don’t listen. This results in a failure to trust advice, frustration and individuals insisting on doing everything because nobody else can do the job properly. Invariably it is often the blood pressure, not the profit margin that begins to soar.

Leaders listen. This is something I realised very early on in my own career when working in the political arena. We all have things that we know a great deal about. But the world is full of people who know a great deal about other things. Therefore, listening is a wonderful opportunity to learn.

I shall finish with a suggestion:

Listen to listen – don’t listen to respond

Sounds incredibly simple and essentially common sense doesn’t it? So here’s an exercise. In the day that comes, see just how many people actually do this without just SHOUTING instead (LOL!).

Luan de Burgh

February 2018

Luan de Burgh is a speaker, writer and founder of de Burgh Training – a specialist business communication training provider dedicated to helping people perform at their highest potential.