Listening means to lend an ear to what is being said but more importantly, it is paying attention to what is being said, who is saying it, the gestures being made while speaking, the tone of the voice and the passion behind the words. Listening does not only mean hearing but paying full attention to what is being said with your eyes, ears, emotions and intellect. I often hear some people say, “speak on, I am hearing you”. Meanwhile, their hands, eyes and intellect are physically and psychologically engaged in doing other things. Feeling heard is therapeutic and can heal many intractable problems.
Listening is a big leadership challenge. Many leaders always want to talk. Only a few wants to listen to others. There is greater wisdom in listening than in talking. Unfortunately, there are not many institutions, if any, where they teach people how to listen. Back in schools, we were taught how to read, speak, write, sing and dance but there were no classes where we were taught how to listen. Research in the field of communications indicate that out of the four communication skills of speaking, reading, writing and listening, listening is used 45% of the time but it is the least taught skill. Little wonder when we grew up and became adults, many of us became sufferers of attention deficiency disorder syndrome (ADDS).
Not listening enough by a leader has been the major cause of conflicts in family relationships, in corporate teams and in social settings. Many followers are simply nauseated by the attitude of many leaders who believe they must always be heard instead of them listening to what others have to say. The cry in the hearts of many followers and team members is centrally based on one simple request – if only my team lead will be patient to listen to me and other members of the team.
Regrettably, most leaders are not wired to listen to other people. What is most despicable about these leaders is that they become offended at the slightest display by lack of attention by others, either while they are speaking or about what they have said. Many of them exhibit lack of self-control because their followers or team members failed to listen to them, whereas they never want to listen to other people’s views.