The Secret to Stronger Ears

Leaders listen to what the market is saying, to what the customer is saying, and to what the team is saying. No, you don’t have to do everything that your constituents demand that you do. But just by showing that you’re listening, really listening, you demonstrate the respect that you accord to them. — Tom Peters writing in “Leadership Is Confusing as Hell” in Fast Company.

On Wednesday we had a big reason to celebrate so the girls and I went to Starbucks to do so. As the designated driver was suffering from a bout of serious sneezing, we decided not to go in, but to order from the drive through. After placing our order, this exchange took place:

Server: So, no whip on that frappucino, right?

Miranda: Yes, I do want whipped cream on my frappucino.

Server (speaking to staff): No whip on that frappucino.

The teachery-type in the car archly comments that, “Someone needs work on listening skills.” Christina puts the same thought more elegantly, “He needs stronger ears.”

According to a certain law of physics, no two objects can occupy the same space at the same time. Likewise, no two objects can occupy the same mind at the same time. Either you’re listening to someone, or you’re not. Pretending to listen is not the same as listening.

In communication classes, a lot of emphasis is placed on developing effective and cogent messages. Some emphasis is put on how to listen to messages. While there are numerous obstacles to good listening (noise, poor pronunciation, distractions), students generally agree that the main reason people don’t listen is that they don’t want to. Either they think the message is not really for them, they disagree with it (before hearing it of course), or they don’t like it (as in “go clean your room.”)

Shutting up the chatter in your own mind and really trying to find out what the other person is saying is a wonderful opportunity to be fully present in the moment, and to connect with the other.

Choosing to listen is opening yourself up to the possibility of the unexpected. You may discover common ground with the other, or perhaps enlightenment in an area totally unrelated to the context of the conversation.

Listening is one way to experience the more bodacious side of life. Be brave and listen.

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