The Liability of Not (Really) Listening

Throughout the past couple of weeks, we’ve had the opportunity to be in front of many career changers and leaders encouraging a conversation about generosity. Using Adam Grant’s Give and Take as a guide, we learn about how giver’s gain and why. One reason is givers are inclined to do two radical things in the world of work: ask questions, and (really) listen to the answer. Adam’s TEDxEast talk on Powerless Communication, a decidedly counter culture title, gets at why this matters more in-depth.

Of course, listening as a strategy makes sense in our relationships outside of the office, but when we report to work, we’re on a mission. We have stuff to accomplish. We don’t have time for whoever is on the phone or in our doorway (even though we have an “open door policy”). As we shared in last week’s video, we fear that if we’re generous (with our ears, too), we may be exploited.

It turns out NOT listening creates suffering, not just for the person across from you, but for your own career trajectory.

Listening is a funny thing, because even when we think we are we often aren’t. Psychologist and meditation proponent Tara Brach, in a recent episode of her podcast tilted Listening with an Awake Heart hits us between the eyes with this:

“We are usually listening in a primitive way: for danger or for advantage. Is there something I need to be afraid of? Is there something I will gain? The aperture of our listening gets so narrow, so focused on our ego, we’re not in an open place. And people can tell.”

What if we listen to someone with wide-open aperture (we love this use of the word that Tara introduces) – not the narrow screen of “How will this help me?” or “How will this hurt me?”

The focus required is real, and the benefit we gain is limitless.