Are you listening?

Here’s a short story. One day a child asked their father how to be successful in life. “Then listen, my son”, came the reply.
The end.

Were you expecting something more? If I were that child, I certainly would! A solemn sharing of ancient wisdom between elder and child, spoken in hushed tones, with the flicker and crackle of campfire in night’s golden silence – that would be more fitting!

While the story lacks the mystery and drama my imagination craves, the father’s message is right on target. The art of listening is a key life skill, but how many people develop it and put it into daily practice? Good listening skills will help secure you a job, get a sale, create opportunities, be an effective team player or leader, and build successful relationships.

Be Present

Good listening is a skill that can be learned and has many aspects to it. The one I’d like to highlight is being present.

By this I mean the person is fully present in the moment, demonstrating their attentiveness and engagement through eye contact, body language, and asking questions that take the conversation deeper.

In contrast a poor listener has split their attention across two or more areas and that has undesirable consequences (whether acknowledged or not).

Ditch the device

A common example is focusing on a device during meetings, perhaps looking at messages or emails, or surreptitiously editing an ‘important’ document, while ‘listening’. I think most of us have been guilty of this at one time or other!

Usually nothing is said but the unsaid speaks volumes. It creates a bad impression, is disrespectful and potentially disruptive. I don’t mind waiting until the email is sent or rescheduling if necessary. I would much rather have a person’s full attention than a bit of it.

Show you’re listening

When I am listening, I put my to-do list to one side – it will still be waiting for me. I still my mind and body, thereby creating a space to invite in the thoughts and ideas being discussed. If I have my phone, I put it on silent and place it face down. No distractions!

When a person is speaking, I turn towards them and give my respectful attention – and listen carefully. I make notes in a notebook that I brought with me. It’s quieter than the clackety-clack of a keyboard.

There’s more to being a great listener than this, but I hope you found this tip useful.

By the way listening is also a great opportunity to observe. One can learn a lot – but that’s for another article!

More articles

Can quantum finally solve diversity and inclusion?

""Changing behaviours at work. The quantum revolution is bringing more than scientific and technological progress. It's changing behaviours and putting the focus on People too.  In this article I'm shining the spotlight on Diversity and Inclusion, and how we can...

Gaslighting at work and what to do about it

Changing behaviours at work. Bad behaviours destroy value and cost businesses more than they realise!  In this article I’m going to highlight an insidious behaviour called “gaslighting”, which is a form of psychological abuse. It can seem the stuff of movies, but it...

The quantum revolution means more than you think

or those of us dedicated in developing a long-term, vibrant, inclusive, diverse and prosperous quantum ecosystem, we must attend to the “seeds and shoots”. On one hand this is putting effort (with funding) into focused areas to foster growth and...

Vision of a Quantum Future

My thanks to Christopher Bishop from Inside Quantum Technology and John Barnes from Entangled Positions for encouraging me to write and share this article. t was early 2016 and snow was falling gently as I made my way on foot from Oxford Railway...

Making uncertainty a friend

n a letter to the French scientist, Jean Baptiste Le Roy, dated November 13, 1789, Benjamin Franklin wrote “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”. If uncertainty is one of Life’s constant companions, why aren’t we...

Back to the office – what next?

he Covid pandemic has dramatically altered our world, bringing into sharp relief the best and worst of humanity, shattering long-established ideas of “normal” life, and disconnecting us from each other – with far-reaching consequences yet to...

Rethinking Success

The pandemic has recalibrated our world in ways unthinkable beforehand. With many people ‘stuck’ inside, success is leaving the home, talking face-to-face (instead of a video call), or even be able to fit into one’s unused clothes! To those with...

The realities of the water cooler effect

uring the pandemic there has been much discussion about the future of work, and the role of the office. Some want to go back to the way things were, others have embraced the "working from home" approach, and the middle ground is a hybrid model....

Empathy matters

ould you believe me if I told you that if your organisation developed more empathy, it would boost business? Over time, there will be an uplift in all the following areas: morale & loyalty innovation and productivity company culture customer...

Are meetings a waste of time?

P erhaps we should have a meeting to discuss? I’m only joking! Meetings create a paradox – they prevent one from working while simultaneously generating more work! According to a 2019 Doodle report, almost two-thirds of professionals lose time every week through...

Your mission – should you wish to accept it

ven now my hearts beats a little faster when I hear the theme to “Mission Impossible”. As a child I was enthralled with the TV series: the covert meeting to listen to the ‘impossible’ mission, the self-destructing tape, and finally the team...

The challenge of receiving feedback

ave you received feedback that left you reeling instead of being a constructive experience? I remember my first ever 'code review' at the start of my career in the software industry. Code reviews are tough experiences. Your work is dissected by...

Dealing with difficult people

ifficult people push our buttons and it's easy to become stuck and focus on what makes us unhappy – especially when our emotions escalate. The more we believe we're right, the more entrenched we become. In turn, that part of our life (remember,...

Ask ‘Why?’ with skill

have a confession to make. When I was younger, still in single figures, I would drive my mum crazy with an endless stream of questions, often starting (and ending) with 'why?'. I wasn't deliberately trying to irritate, I just wanted to know, and...

Get In Touch

You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.

~ Rabindranath Tagore