Senthiyl S S G, Managing Director, Arbinger Southeast Asia
The Arbinger Institute
Do you ever find it difficult to listen to others without imposing your own agenda? It seems that most of us struggle to listen to others without trying to change the other person’s views to align with our own.
Can this kind of listening be consistent with seeing people as people? If our personal agenda is guiding the discussion at the expense of truly understanding the needs, goals, burdens and challenges of the other person, can we really be helpful?
In one particular session I was facilitating, groups were given 15 minutes each to deeply appreciate the needs, goals, burdens and pains of one person in their group. 5 minutes into the activity a few groups asked me if they could move onto the next person as they have already finished understanding the first person.
I invited these groups to consider how well they could have understood the other people given that they only invested 5 minutes doing that.
I further explored with them how much time they really spend understanding the needs of their customers and other stakeholders. I asked these groups if the problems/challenges they were having with many of their stakeholders was because they were not investing enough time understanding their needs, goals, burdens and challenges.
Near the end of the discussions, I finally asked the groups if the way they were listening was a powerful indication of how they were truly regarding others – as people or as objects.
Listening, I would suggest, is a powerful indicator that informs us about how we regard others . . . as people or as objects.
A simple question could help us become more aware of our true motivation in situations that require us to understand others:
“Am I listening to teach and advise or am I listening to learn?”
While it is clear how we might listen to teach or advise, what does it mean to listen to learn?
Arbinger suggests 3 areas to focus on when listening:
- Listening to learn about the person
- Listening to learn from that person
- Listening to learn how I may be mistaken
Listening with these 3 areas in mind creates a deep connection between the listener and the person being listened to. We hear things we haven’t heard before. We begin to really understand the other person and the other person feels that they and their views are important.
Unfortunately, listening is often thought of as a burden we impose on ourselves for the benefit of others.
Listening, I have come to realize, is primarily a gift we offer ourselves … to live and work free of prejudices, biases, and false assumptions.
It is the first step in strengthening teamwork, a powerful strategy to optimize our time, and exponentially increase our productivity.