“Every person I work with knows something better than me. My job is to listen long enough to find it and use it.” – Jack Nichols
Listening is the gift to speaking. One of the greatest sensations is being heard and understood by another human being. It provides us with a sense of value and freedom to express ourselves. On the other hand, when someone pigeon holes us, we feel impeded and minimized.
You may know more than the person speaking to you. Regardless, you don’tknow what they know. Their understanding may be essential to what you need to complete a project or thought.
Therefore, it is in your best interest to provide others ample space to contribute. When you listen to people with the presupposition that you already know what they know or that they have nothing to offer, you cheat both them and yourself.
We work with people who come from different backgrounds. Others have interests that seem boring and we listen to them as assuming they are obstructions. Yet, those same people have valuable perspectives that you may never develop on your own. Their odd way of viewing the world may be your missing link and their boring interests may have transferable skills that you are unable to comprehend.
To remedy this listening challenge, it seems like all we have to do is incorporate diversity. And yet, what use is diversity if you still have predetermined people’s ability to contribute?
Whether you are a manager or a board member, learn to distinguish the conversations you have with yourself when you are supposedly listening to others. Do you hear their view, even if it contrasts with yours? Or are you listening to your own thoughts about how you will respond to them?
Until you learn to listen to others and understand enough to know what they know, you will live in a world that is the size of one person: yourself. Listen with a purpose.