This afternoon I listened. I did not just hear. I tried to open my head, my heart, and my ears to model Dr. Stephen Covey’s Habit 5: Seek First to Understand Then To Be Understood.
I know that I have been guilty on occasion of wanting to be understood and heard first. Many times when someone sits down across from me with a clear intent that they want to be heard I have failed them. Yes, I was physically present but I know I was not always fully present. Or instead of allowing the person to share and speak without interruption, I felt it necessary to get my point across, to offer an opinion or to go to problem solving. Or worse, I masked being interested in listening and tuned out.
I am not proud of writing that last statement but in all honesty it is something I have resorted to. I purposely have reminded myself to be cognizant of this poor lapse in communication and definite progress has been made.
But it is hard to actively listen to someone. To stay silent and to let others speak without interrupting them. I can remember participating in a communication session where one of the hardest activities we had to do was to be silent and not voice any opinion or thought until all others in the discussion group had there turn.
It was difficult not to interject, yet as each group member was allowed to speak without interruption I began to notice that a sense of calmness and peace settled in. Points were being made and accepted without judgement and confrontation. And what was really interesting and beneficial was that everyone contributed. The people that normally remained quiet and did not speak up in discussions were heard and there thoughts were well received. I found this activity stimulating and enriching.
Leaders who are active listeners are approachable leaders. They are leaders who others seek for guidance and support. They listen with empathy and without judgement.
I value leaders who I can approach. Leaders who not give me just their voice, but they give me their full attention and hear what I have to say.
I am attempting to model Covey’s principle more frequently like I did this afternoon. I hope that the ability to actively listen becomes a leadership strength for me.