To be honest, I think until recent years and becoming a teacher, I fit right in that category. I really didn’t give the art of listening enough attention. I took for granted that of course I listened, but on reflection, what I was really doing all too often was pondering what I would say next. But Sample got me thinking. Now, I not only communicate the importance of quality listening but work hard to practice it as well.
In reflecting on why this problem so frequently exists, I got to thinking about how, as a culture, we often are not comfortable with silence. We tend to immediately respond, driven by a pause that might communicate we don’t understand or don’t care. When this happens, the quality communication that is so key to productive collaboration does not happen and potential positive results are not reached.
I remember traveling internationally on behalf of the state, and then later on behalf of private sector clients, and being so frustrated when speaking, for instance, to the Japanese and getting almost always the silent treatment. Now I suspect that culturally they felt no pressure to respond before thinking. What I found awkward, they felt only made common sense.
Bottom line is, it is clear being a good listener has huge value and is absolutely essential to productive dialogue and collaboration. With the real world operating much of the time in teams, this capacity to be a good listener becomes all the more important.