Listening, the Best Tool for Problem-Solving?

by Helen Whelan

Listening is one of those things that can look like it’s really easy and passive but it’s just the opposite. And, if you feel passionate about something or know “the answer,” it can be really hard to do. Just watch this funny video that drives home the point (couldn’t help myself):

Peter Bregman, a fantastic writer for the Harvard Business Review and leadership advisor to companies, recently wrote an article about this sorely needed, underutilized communication skill:

“Really listening can feel risky, which seems strange because listening doesn’t materially change anything. But sometimes you’ll hear things that are hard to hear.”

Like why someone is angry. Or, that your production schedule is about to go off the rails. Or, that your client really isn’t happy and not about to renew that big deal you were counting on.

You get the picture.

Listening is not about agreeing. It’s just about being silent or asking questions so that you understand someone’s communication. It’s about being fully present to listen without answering the phone or tech interruptions and, sometimes, (this can sound touchy-feely but Bregman says it works) it’s about repeating back what you heard to let the other party know you’ve heard them. He says it can actually “reduce the intensity” of having to take action because sometimes people just need to feel heard.

Sometimes listening alone can solve the problem.

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