When I was young, ambitious and motivated, I remember having what I thought was a “brilliant” idea about how to do something better. I don’t remember what the idea was, but I do remember that when I tried to share my great insight with my supervisor, I was cut off in the middle of a sentence and told that my idea wouldn’t work. “We’ve done that before,” or “We’ve tried that before and it didn’t work,” I don’t remember the exact words my supervisor used, but the message was clear.
However, I do remember feeling hurt and frustrated because I wasn’t listened to. I remember walking away saying something like, “Why didn’t he listen to me? He didn’t even let me get my point across. What’s wrong with him?” I left that encounter a little less motivated, and a little gun-shy toward suggesting anything in the future.
Listening is a discipline that many leaders do not practice effectively. I would go so far as to say that, in my experience, listening is the most ill practiced leadership skill, yet we all know that we need to listen effectively to lead effectively.
My mother used to tell me that, “Patience is a virtue.” Maybe your mother said the same thing to you. Why would my mother consider patience to be a virtue? Possibly because so many people fail to exercise patience – and they frequently show it in their poor listening skills!
Patient listening doesn’t just automatically happen. It requires conscious thought.
The truth is that we all have to exercise our conscious intent to be patient because listening and patience are active, not automatic actions. We can’t condition or train ourselves to do these two properly without consciously thinking about them as we do them.
“The deep knowing that is wisdom arises
through the simple act of giving
someone or something your full attention.”
- Eckhart Tolle
Honor others by “being there”
There are two ways in which we typically listen – with patience or with the intent to respond.
Patient listening is a hallmark of genuine leaders. Conversely, listening with the intent to respond is a negative habit born of impatience. It typically shows itself by either our interrupting the other person when they are speaking, or by not fully listening and so misunderstanding what the other person says.
The next time someone is communicating to you, give that other person the honor of your full attention. Listen intently with the goal of hearing and really understanding what that person is saying – not half-listening or listening with the intent of responding (getting your two-cents in).
Stay aware and minimize allowing your mind to drift. Effective listening honors those who are speaking to you. Be known as a leader who patiently listens and understands. You’ll have a better team and you’ll make better decisions, because wisdom is a product of knowing.
Patient listening is a virtue!