Do no harm, listen with heart and soul

Leadership
Typography

Communication is at the center of our social interactions. We are communicating whether we think we are or not. Our body language, whether tight fist or open hands; whether a frown or a smile; whether folded arms across our chest or open; whether, well you get the message, speaks loudly. For better or worse, we are communicating. We communicate better when we are in harmony with people. 

Communication is at the center of our social interactions. We are communicating whether we think we are or not. Our body language, whether tight fist or open hands; whether a frown or a smile; whether folded arms across our chest or open; whether, well you get the message, speaks loudly. For better or worse, we are communicating. We communicate better when we are in harmony with people. 

 

In Daniel Goleman’s book Social Intelligence, he speaks about how we can identify how a couple will get along by the way they walk together. If they walk in sync, then there is a good possibility they just might have a chance with at least a good friendship, at least not enemies. We humans seek to have that sync with others. We are drawn to those that seem in harmony with us; agree with us, collaborate with us, work together with us, without contention, without arguing, without disagreement, without obstacles, without roadblocks, without harm. The book Blink discusses how researchers were able to watch married couples, then within minutes of listening to their conversation and body language, tell if they were heading for marital difficulty in the future. We are always sending signals of some kind to others, some good, some not so good.

 

In his book, Goleman speaks of mirroring neurons. Mirroring neurons pick up on communication signals and enable us to decide within seconds whether we are going to get along with someone or not. Communication experts call our decoding of relationships as the interactional model of communication. For instance, this interactional model discusses how our communication is all about sending and receiving. The original source encodes and sends a message to a receiver (through one or more of the sensory channels). The receiver receives and decodes the message, then encodes feedback and sends it back to the source, thus making the process two-directional.

 

What is the best way for relationships to ensure that the encoded message gets decoded the right way without a misunderstanding? Listening. There is a buzz word in organizational leadership that uses the word “authentic listening” in regards to the kind of listening that works best. The best description of this type of listening is listening with “heart and soul.” It is the same as paying attention to what people say, active listening, and effective listening.

 

There was a certain person in one organization who thought it would be a good idea to say to those he was getting ready to interview, “I am going to listen to you with heart and soul.” Days later after a manager heard the phrase, he spoke to the person.  “You know, you don’t have to say that. They will know whether you are or not. If you are a magician, you don’t have to say, ‘I’m going to pull the rabbit out of the hat.’ You just pull the rabbit out of the hat.’” Others know whether you listening or not.

 

Listening is not easy. Many times we are just thinking about what we are going to say before they finish talking. They notice. You have encoded a message back to them that you are not in sync with them. Carol Roach and Nancy Wyatt wrote an essay, Listening and the Rhetorical Process in which they stated three important misconceptions about listening: listening is natural; listening is passive; I’m a good listener when I try”. The latter is most interesting since Roach and Wyatt found that we only remember 25 percent of what we listen to, trying or not.

 

Max Messemer in his article The Keys to Employee Retention, stated, “Listen to your staff. Effective communication goes beyond the spoken word. Experienced managers actually spend a greater amount of their time listening because they know that employees whose concerns and opinions are acknowledged are more likely to perform at their best”. An interesting attitude is suggested by Gareth Taylor, Associate Dean of the Business School at Mississippi State University, “You almost have to view employees as you do customers”. If we can listen to a customer; then we should be listening to employees with the same intensity.

There is a cost for not listening. How many times do employees have to redo and rework tasks and projects because of not practicing active listening? Figure that one mistake per week while using 15 minutes to redo each mistake, then compound that by the month, then by the year; that’s a lot of time wasted; how much did that cost? What if that mistake caused an organization to lose a customer? What if the customer that was lost, then convinced several others not to do business with your organization? Mistakes have a money cost, and Berko, Wolvin, & Wolvin stated, “A $10 listening mistake made by each of the 100 million U.S. workers would add up to the cost of a billion dollars”. In addition, they mentioned that federal investigators observed that poor listening is as much at fault as mechanical problems in airline crashes.

 

Be careful how you encode and decode your communication, and then above all, practice listening with heart and soul.

 

David Pollitt is a well-known author of leadership books and Christian science fiction. He is also the author of ‘Preparing Excellence for the Excellent’, which is a curriculum design project for the University of Bahr el Ghazal in the Wau province of South Sudan. His books can be downloaded from smashwords.com, and he has his own blog at professoredit.wordpress.com. Yes, some of his books on smashwords.com are free. Take a look.

 

 

 

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