Listen, I mean seriously LISTEN!

I remember back when I was in school, whenever the professor asked a question, a series of hands went up and everybody was very eager to share their answer or their opinions. While I totally agree that speaking up takes a certain amount of courage and also requires or develops the ability to communicate clearly, what I am not sure about is whether it encourages us to “listen to what others have to say”

One of the very important qualities for any leader is Listening. There are several articles on this topic, so many that, whenever we encounter advice about listening, we take it for granted. We assume that we are good listeners and we already have it nailed. But seriously, are we that good? I find it to be a constant battle for me.


A few scenarios on top of my head are below. I have come across these at work, and am fairly certain everybody encounters similar situations.

  • Your boss is advising about some thing. You are so eager to tell him that you already know about it that you either interrupt him or you are just waiting for him to finish to say that you know all about it. You just missed some valuable advice because you interrupted him or didn’t pay attention to what he had to say.
  • There is a discussion taking place within your team about a certain topic. If you happen to have input on the topic, you stop listening to what others have to say and eagerly wait to present your view.
  • A colleague asks you for advice or opinion. You put on your advisor hat and even before you listen to what exactly she /he needs advice in, you start advising.
  • You ask your team mate to reason why a particular thing was done a certain way. But, even before she/ he tells you why, you start telling them they are wrong or start sharing your opinion on their approach because you have already formed your opinion.
  • A colleague is sharing a problem he / she is experiencing. Instead of listening to what exactly his / her problem is, you jump to providing the colleague an advice about what you perceive the problem is or even worse provide a solution to one of your own problems because you are stuck with your own problem in your head.
  • A team mate is providing feedback on a particular process/idea/etc, which you championed. Instead of listening to his / her feedback, you either take a defensive route or try to find faults in the person’s reasoning.
  • There is a debate going on in the team about a particular topic. You either pick the side of your favorite team mate or shut yourself off from the debate instead of listening to both sides.

And the list goes on. I am quite certain that I have been on the non-listening end in each of the above scenarios at least once. I do not have much advice or ideas here except one simple reminder – develop awareness. Awareness to the fact that you are supposed to be listening instead of talking. Next time you are in any of these situations, just try to pay as much attention as you can and carefully listen. Listen and ask open ended questions so that the other person can talk and you can grasp the whole content. Just LISTEN!