Listening is an act of Love – David Isay spoke these words a few months ago in an interview with Krista Tippett. I had heard these words before but after hearing these on a podcast, On Being, these words have given me much to think about and understand the meaning of “listening”. Listening is participating in a conversation because you have to be active and engaged.
Hosting a podcast has made me very observant and has developed my listening skills as I interview many guests. Because of the subject matter, the questions and responses are not rehearsed. Rather than following a set format, it’s a free flowing format. By listening, my active participation gives me the opportunity to ask the depth of questions that people want to know the answers to. This act of love allows my guests to be comfortable and at ease and they share their stories, their secrets, their goals, and their challenges with me. Listening is an act of love and it is the most important skill to have as a leader in:
- Business – By listening to people, a leader gets everything as Ben Simonton likes to conclude about strengthening listening skills. This type of leader has great employees, loyal customers, and valuable community and all are important in accomplishing true success in any industry. When people really feel listened to, they participate in the success not the failure of the company. Listening gives a leader a chance to shift, improve, and change the course of business.
- Community – The smart thing to do is to give yourself the opportunity to learn from other people’s experiences. A story of a person who served time in jail or who is struggling to find work or someone who graduated from school or someone who just got married can offer powerful lessons. Listening to people in the small and the big circles that we are a part of is valuable. I remember all the lessons I learned from my grandfather as I listened to the stories of his experiences during and the few years that followed India's Independence.
Sometimes challenge arises when we need to listen to someone with opposing views. This is the time when an open mind can lead in this dance of listening while creating a beautify story. At times, I still fail. I'm not focusing on being perfect but I'm learning to keep listening to myself and others.
History shows that great leaders chose service over self-interests and the finest act of service is truly listening to others. I have heard that in business setting people avoid emotional interactions, but the elite leaders know the value of making themselves approachable by listening to their followers. It's a skill that requires practice but it's worth all the work. I found some great practices in this book, Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: What the Most Effective People Do Differently, by John C. Maxwell.
You are welcome to share your thoughts on this topic.