In Communication, Focus, Leaders

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” – Steven R. Covey

I know we talked about this same topic not that long ago, but it keeps coming up over and over again.  It’s the idea of listening, and how most leaders aren’t very good at it.  They may acknowledge how important listening is, but when it’s time to put it into practice, most leaders fail miserably.

On some level, it’s hard to blame them.  The inability to listen is a curse that most of the world seems to be afflicted with, so why would leaders be any different?  It seems like most people can’t stop talking – usually about themselves – and when they do stop, it’s only to catch their breath or come up with a topic for the next sermon.

Sometimes I think it’s somewhat of a self-fulfilling loop.  Everyone, on some level, wants to be heard.  We’re surrounded by people who we think aren’t hearing us.  So we feel like we have to talk more or talk louder so that people will hear us.  Take that times roughly 8 billion and you have life on planet earth in 2024.

While we can’t control the other non-listeners, as leaders we have to control ourselves.  Yes, there absolutely are situations when we need to share our thoughts and opinions.  When we’re in those situations, we can’t hesitate to speak up.

That being said, before you speak up, make sure you’ve really, truly heard those around you.  I spoke with a leader recently who said that before she shares an opinion in a meeting, she will mentally go around the room and state – in her own mind – the opinions of each of the people in the room.  If there is someone whose opinion who doesn’t know or understand, then she’ll ask that person what they think before she speaks.  When she really knows what everyone else is thinking, then she feels like she’s listened, and it’s OK for her to speak.

I’m not necessarily saying you have to do that, but she definitely has the right idea.  When you’re in a meeting or discussion, or even just an every day conversation, do you actually know what the other person thinks.  Or are you just running them over with a word bulldozer?

Develop the discipline to stop and listen.  Once you’ve done that, then you’ve earned the right to speak.

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