One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say. –B. H. McGill
Gentle Reader, I invite you right now to stop, step-back and reflect: Think of a time when you were truly, deeply, reflectively listened to; you were listened to with undefended receptivity. AND, think of a time when you truly, deeply and reflectively listened to another; you listened with undefended receptivity.
Listening in this way – ‘truly, deeply, reflectively,’ and receptively – is a gift given and received. When I am listened to in this way and when I listen in this way I experience time standing still, the ‘now’ is experienced. I am not ruminating about the past nor am I anticipating the future (e.g. thinking about how I will respond).
For me, this gift of listening is a sacred gift. It is also a rare gift. The illusion of technology was embedded in a promise: ‘Technology will give us more time!’ My experience is that the opposite has happened. We are so caught up in technology that we don’t have more time. It is rare that I am with another and within five minutes of sitting down together that technology will cry not out for attention.
Listening in this way requires us (me and the other) to slow down, to wait rather than react, and to seek to understand rather than reply. Listening in this way requires reflective silence and patience (patience first for some of us).
Listening in this way honors both myself and the other. What a gift – the gift of honoring.
Listening in this way creates a space and a pathway for the quiet, small voice of wisdom that resides within me and the other to not only speak but to actually have an opportunity to be heard and heeded.
Listening in this way not only honors the relationship, listening in this way enhances the relationship. ‘Trust’ is nurtured, and, often, is sustained as a consequence of listening in this way.
A gift that a leader (by role or by situation) can give the other is the gift of listening in this way. Too many leaders are infected by the hurry sickness as a consequence of being addicted to speed (as a Culture we are addicted to both ‘speed’ and ‘distraction’).
Recently, a CEO decided to respond to the employees. They had been sending him a message for months that he was not ‘present to them.’ He did not take the time to visit the centers (there are ten health centers available for him to visit). Two weeks ago he announced that he ‘heard’ them and that he would visit each center.
On the given day of his visit a representative showed up. The staff was gathered in a room and a video tape was put on – not a live feed, a video tape. The CEO wanted to know the issues and told the staff to tell the CEO’s representative and that person would take notes and report back to the CEO.
Gentle Reader, this actually happened. An example of listening – true. How many employees felt honored and gifted by this CEO’s approach? How much cynicism was sown or nurtured as a consequence? What was the message sent by the CEO? [The message received is the message; intentions do not matter in this scenario.]
Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk. –Doug Larson