Rob and Tom - Part - 4
Rob: Hey Tom, the ability to be a listener keeps coming up as a necessary trait of a good leader. I want to get your take on listening.
Tom: Rob, in my experience there are two types of listening. What I call listening to and listening at. Listening to is intending to learn from the other person or to understand what they are saying. Listening at is selectively hearing only a portion of what is being said for giving a response.
I guess you could say there is a third type of listening or non listening and that is just simply not caring about what is being said at all.
Rob: I can see where in any conversation listening is a matter of intention. That intention can be productive or it can be ineffective.
Tom: Much conflict results from listening at and non listening. I would almost say listening at is non listening and, as you say, ineffective. I see conversations that are, in reality, who knows best contests. There are many types of conversation, from technical, to general, to personal, but the principals of listening are the same for each.
Rob: An example that comes to mind is the standard “how are you doing” greeting. In this case, what is the intent of the question and was the person really interested in the answer? I feel like more people ask intending to listen at the answer and rather than to the answer. Or just not listening at all.
Tom: That is a good example of intent having a positive effect on someone’s day or adding to the stress they may already be feeling. It happens quickly, so before we ask we need to ask ourselves, are we asking because it is a feel good question or are we asking so we can listen to the answer? I guarantee the person being asked knows the intent. My opinion is do not ask if you are not interested in the answer.
Rob: A leader can have an enormous influence on the people of their group in how they listen during conversation regardless of context. A leader who is a careful listener can more easily understand the dynamics of their group. A leader who listens intending to maintain a healthy work environment will succeed more often than not.
Tom: Very well said Rob.