Effective Teams

Can’t Hear vs. Won’t Listen

I thought he couldn’t hear the questions. Couldn’t understand the nuance of what we were saying. Lacked the ability to decipher what we were asking. 

But I have come to realise that my “can’t hear” hypothesis was wrong. Actually, he wouldn’t listen. He lacked the willingness or capability or desire to even listen, and so just picked up on some key words in the question and returned a volley of words, hoping that some of those words would suffice. And force the questioner to retreat into subdued silence.

But listening is so much more than just hearing. Hearing is the mechanical process. Listening is the deep internal process of understanding, of engaging, of giving, of seeking, of sensemaking. Not being able to hear is a deficit that can be worked on through patient engagement. Not being willing to listen is a travesty and may only get worse through patient engagement.

Listening is active and does not mean remaining silent. When you are really listening, your mouth has to work in equal balance to your ears. To ask for more. To seek clarification. To suggest ideas and hear the response. To offer up the internal dialogue that’s churning inside as you hear –> process –> reflect –> assess. To gauge how your words and responses are influencing, impacting and even interrogating the other person or persons who are equally engaged in the listening (and discovery / learning) process.

To be unwilling to listen is to disqualify yourself from collaborative opportunities. Because collaboration is mutual interdependence and the combining of respective strengths, and where listening is absent, collaboration is reduced to mere conversational turns at best, and steamrolling bluffery at worst.

Categories: Effective Teams