Listening instead of hearing

Anthony Pica headshot
Anthony Pica
Read in 

Listening instead of hearing

Listening instead of hearing

"No" is often a baby's favorite word. Parents say it, babies mimic, and it becomes familiar.

When my wife and I ask my 18-month-old son a question, he responds "no" about 95% of the time. And he says it immediately.

I don't think he's even trying to understand what we're saying. He's discovering his voice and has become so familiar with saying "no" that it's now his go-to response. It's instinctual.

I think this self-centered behavior is human nature and stays with us through adulthood.

We sit on Zoom calls, hearing what people say—but we're not listening. Eager to contribute, we assert our voices to share our own ideas. The ego likes to look good, so we want to make an interesting point. As someone speaks, our internal monologue prepares for a response. Words enter the ears, but the brain is preoccupied.

I've caught myself doing this more times than I can count. It's easy to get distracted by my own thoughts.

But it's a problem because it creates a communication barrier.

The inability to listen prevents us from acquiring information. Consequently, we don't fully understand our teammates' perspectives. We miss out on the details of what they're saying—and also what they're not saying. Lack of empathy means we don't experience the actual reality of the conversation.

It can also make someone feel disrespected when they don't feel heard. And it's more challenging to persuade someone who feels disrespected. (If you're not listening to them, why should they listen to you?) Therefore, effective listening is a critical leadership skill.

What I've found helpful is paraphrasing in my own words what someone has said.

  • "What I'm hearing is that you think we should prioritize Sarah's campaign idea."
  • "It sounds like you want a Back button added to the page so you can quickly edit your settings."
  • "Honey, I think you're saying you'd like to go on vacation. Is that right?"

Paraphrasing encourages active listening. Active listening helps collect accurate information and makes people feel valued.

You might also like...

No items found.

Join: Work Smart, Lead Better.

Liked this article? No more than once per week, I send a newsletter containing one idea you can use to work smarter and be a better leader. Core themes: strategy, collaboration, and mental fitness.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.