The perks of listening
How concentration and consideration can transform the way we do business
These days we all have shorter spans of attention, and often also shorter fuses. Gone are the days of sitting quietly in a sun-filled atelier, listening reverently to a novel (comprised of polysyllabic-strewn, fifty-word sentences) read aloud for an hour or two. Mr Charles Dickens, we fear, would not do well in today’s humdrum, mile-a-minute, Insta-gratification world.
If we’re honest, some readers might be reaching for their phones this very minute to Google exactly who Charles Dickens actually was. People over the age of forty may shake their heads at that, but it’s a reality.
Which brings us to that little device. The equally loved and hated smartphone. A gateway to information heroin. Information, mind you, in byte- and bite-sized pieces. Little bits at a time. Easily digestible. Lots of pretty pictures.
We aren’t knocking it. It’s just the way things are. Things have changed and keep changing, faster and faster. We’re a technology-obsessed global society. And we struggle with concentration. When we queue or sit in a lecture hall, we inevitably reach for that tablet or phone to check this or that email or social media platform.
The latest and greatest version of our favourite keeping-us-connected toy is always in the pipeline. There’s even a wry joke about our addiction to technology and slick, streamlined look-good brands: How do you milk a sheep? Answer: Bring out a new iPhone.
As a result of all this fast-paced tech, we also listen less well. Sometimes we don’t listen at all. We’ve lost the ability to focus. And like it or not, that has an impact on our psyche and our personal and professional relationships. We miss the details and the nuances of true communication, because we aren’t fully present.
So what can be done about it? And should it?
In the article “The art of listening well”, Eugene Raudsepp observes: “Listening is an art that requires work, self-discipline, and skill. The art of communication springs as much from knowing when to listen as it does from knowing how to use words well. Ask any good salesperson or negotiator about the value of silence. He or she will tell you good listeners generally make more sales and better deals than good talkers.”
Raudsepp’s article was first published in 1981. His insights are still 100% relevant. Listening is like concentration meeting consideration. And both the abilities to concentrate and to show interest in and care for others are wonderful and extremely useful attributes we should all cultivate.
In a nutshell, here’s why listening more, and speaking less, is good for business:
- We learn better when we listen well.
- We garner accurate information, and gain insight and fresh perspectives.
- It fosters trust and helps people open up to us.
- It allays misunderstandings.
- It helps us to be patient and to practice mindfulness.
From your most important client to your most junior employee, you will do better business if you listen to what they have to say. It improves relationships and recall. And it’s good for the brain and the mind.
All you have to do is practise.
Give your mouth a rest. Put away your phone. Make eye contact. Take a breath. And listen. It’s rather a lovely thing to do. What you learn, may surprise and intrigue you.