Why is the onus of communication only on the communicator?
Negotiations succeed, when people listen. Leaders succeed when they listen. Most conflict is solvable if people would listen. Relationships succeed when we listen. Yet we teach our children how to be great communicators and speakers at home and in school, but never great listeners. Why?
William Uri, master negotiator and veteran of conflict zones, challenges us in his talk, that I heard today. He lists three reasons why listening is critical, especially in a negotiation or a conflict:
- Negotiation is an effort at influence. How can you do that without understanding the other person’s mind?
- Listening builds trust, empathy.
- Listening to someone is the surest way to ensure the other person listens to you.
There is no doubt that listening is an incredible leadership trait- undervalued but possibly more important than speaking. It is the golden key to successful relationships. But if listening is so powerful, why are we all not listening?
It’s probably our cluttered minds, all the distractions, inadequate emotional space, the need to be right and frankly, lack of practice. Real listening needs to be practiced every day. It is about shifting focus away from us, tuning into the other and the other’s frame of reference. Genuine listening is not just about what is said but also about what is not said.
Is it possible to deal with this, to learn to listen? For some people, it comes naturally. For most, it requires effort and practice- but it is possible to acquire in your skill set.
Personally, I discovered the magic and power of listening as a leader in the corporate world, but I only started working actively to harness it and make it my go-to power, in my role as a coach. As a coach, the most precious training I received and I practice is to tune in, to be in the zone, to listen. The more I practice and build this ability, the better I am at my job, and possibly at life.
William Uri asks an important question. In an age where there is a lot of talking and such little listening, do we need a listening revolution? An age of real communication, effective communication. Can we at least take the first step and commit to be a listening society?
If you’re listening right now and you want to read more, here is another post, another perspective on the power of listening, from last month. If you would like to connect with a coach who puts a premium on listening and creating a space for your agenda and a focus on you, do connect.
Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.