In an increasingly digital world, the prevalence of face to face conversations and even phone conversations have decreased. As the norm changes, the need to be an active, deep listener has become more important than ever. While it is the role of the speaker to convey the message that they are trying to communicate, the role of the listener is also incredibly important. As we discuss in our recent book, Lifting People Up, the Power of Recognition: “it is the role of the listener to not only receive the words, but understand and analyze their meaning.”
To facilitate open dialogue, there are certain tactics that you can employ that will communicate to the speaker that you are hearing them and participating in the discussion. The listener should observe the speaker and express interest and enthusiasm and smile or even engage in physical contact to convey skillful listening. It is also important for the listener to acknowledge that the message has been received and sometimes even play back the message to reiterate the deep listening.
In today’s digital age, there is a common misconception that distracted listening offers similar value to deep listening. However, there are benefits of listening deeply to others – deep listening encourages deep learning. As the Dalai Lama states, “When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.”
Deep listening does not only mean listening to others. It is also important to practice personal reflection and listening to your “self”. Virginia Gilmore, founder of the Sophia Foundation, does just this. Amidst watching her last child leave for college, she knew she needed to listen to her “self”: “My inner needs were so strong at that point I just had to stop and deal with them.”
You cannot properly sustain a successful career without taking care of your emotional needs, and you cannot take care of your emotional needs without listening to your “self.” At Kuczmarski Innovation, our innovation consulting firm, we offer our employees unlimited paid vacation days, sick days, and personal days. This gives everyone ample time to listen to their “self” and take care of their emotional needs. Encouraging your employees to listen deeply to others and to themselves will facilitate personal growth, continued learning, and a higher level of ownership within the organization.