The Sound of Silence

Blog Post Transformational Leadership

“There is a difference between listening and waiting for your turn to speak.” –Simon Sinek, author and speaker

Listen to Silent
It was once pointed out to me that the words ‘listen’ and ‘silent’ use the same letters in their formation. It’s a peculiar anagram, given that for most of us, listening in silence is an arduous matter. Even as you read these words, your listening radar is finely tuned to multiple channels of input, whether from external sources of distraction or internal interferences generated from conversations you are having with yourself. We might normally be able to hear a male voice outdoors from a distance of over 590 feet away and, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, a voice has been recorded to be heard at a distance of 10.5 miles across still water at night; yet, in a conversation from two feet away, why can’t we listen to what is being said?

Drawback to Backward
In conversations with others, it could be our attention is so focused on what’s important to us about what we hear that we relegate what’s important to others to a back-burner concern. We have it backward, not through our own fault—our brain is wired that way—but from lack of practice. Think about it. If you were to repetitively practice utilizing the sound from another’s voice as a cue to focus full attention on what’s important to them, in time, your listening tactic would change; so, too, would your behavior toward that person. It’s a skill that can be learned and the upside of elevated trust and credibility is huge. People know when you’re not listening, because of your tone, choice of words, and body language in response to what they are saying immediately communicates, “I do not care what is important to you.” Add up the number of wasted opportunities to learn that result in a day of conversations in which you were not listening, and the tangible effect of listening for what’s important to you, not others, is telling.

Race to Care
In the hectic pace of everyday business life, speaking and listening serve a central role in how we get things done. Advances in technology serve to accelerate the flow of communication, increasingly in digital format. Easily lost in the race to send and receive information is the skill of ‘feeling’ listening, where trust is the greatest. Superficial listening is where trust is the lowest. Feeling listening is another way of saying listening to understand, asking questions for clarity or affirmation, being curious, identifying new things to learn. It’s a trait of effective leaders, and it comes from practicing the following: when in communication with others, stop (turn off all distractions), listen (what can I learn from them?), and collaborate (how can I be helpful?). Try it. The worst-case scenario is that others will know you care.

Be lured by what others have to say and what you might learn from them, not ruled by your auto response.

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