Not Listening – What Does It Truly Cost Your Organization in Dollars and Cents?

From the time we are born, listening is a skill acquired and used primarily before any of the other senses.  Throughout youth and the teen years, we rely heavily on listening to learn from school and parents.  It is also during this time that we develop the skills of communicating.

An old rhyme goes like this; “A wise old owl sat on an oak; the more he saw, the less he spoke.  The less he spoke, the more he heard; why aren’t we like that wise old bird?”

Why is it then, with such an aptitude of listening that is developed from the time we are born – perhaps even one the most used of our senses – do we fail to continue listening the older we get?

It seems as though listening is a skill that worsens throughout the growing years, as other skills develop and take precedence. By the time people face adulthood they have also faced many bad experiences.  One human instinct is to “tune it out” after awhile.  For example, a kid who hears his parents fighting a lot growing up may try to drone out the unwanted sound by blaring music loudly in his bedroom.  Or, a child who has faced ridicule from peers may tune out those feelings of rejection by simply not listening to people any longer.

Another reason people don’t listen well as adults is because they have mastered the art of talking.  Naturally egocentric as humans, we like to talk about ourselves or about things we like.  Over time, this can lead to interrupting.  Ifsomeone is not listening to what you have to say they may interrupt frequently.  That is because they are on a train of thought and are too unaware that the natural order of conversing back and forth means

‘You talk, then I listen; then I talk, and You listen.”

Yet a wise old sage once said; “We have been given two ears but one single mouth, in order that we may listen more and talk less.” Good point.

Let’s go back to the owl.  As an observer, the wise owl mastered listening and was able to capture his surroundings.  Think how much more people would be able to take in mentally if they truly heard everything that was going on around them.  In the spy movies, the secret agent is always quiet; hence he always knows what’s going on and is a stealthy step ahead of the bad guys.

In an abstract sense, perception impairs the ability to talk and listen adequately causing gaps between the subconscious intent of the leader and what subsequent results may follow.  Some leaders intend to ‘bring down’ others in order to fluff up their own ego. This can be a sign of self-doubt.  Those are leaders who got promoted because of making their presence known, loudly!  The quiet leaders are the motivators.  They quietly know what the capabilities are of their subordinates, so they don’t need to yell in order to motivate them.  This enforces the aspect of trust on behalf of the leader and the follower.  It could be said that leaders are quiet motivators with abundant wisdom, most of which they acquired by listening more and speaking less.

The people who listen are known as wise, well respected and sought-after for advice. People trust them.  That is because they are leaders, who absorb information by listening more and talking less.  They have mastered the art of listening, hearing and implementing. They have gained respect and trust.

To listen well is as powerful a means of influence as to talk well,
and is as essential to all true conversation.
–          Chinese Proverb

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