Are We ‘Hear’ for Each Other?

Businesses build on relationships

by Don Henninger

You can observe a lot just by watching.

That’s one of the sayings made famous by Yogi Berra, a Hall of Fame baseball catcher perhaps best known for his off-the-wall quotes. While some of his “Yogi-isms” are hilarious, many of them have a deeper meaning if you take a minute to think about it.

Here’s a twist on “watching” that might have a useful purpose.

You can hear alot just by listening.

Listening does not come easy these days. Actually, it has become an endangered skill — to the detriment of just about everything we do.

It’s not hard to understand why. There’s a never-ending explosion of information — a lot of it is on social media, which tends to be negative, opinionated and often short on facts. It can overwhelm our ability to hear anything truly useful, divide not unite us and, even worse, warp reality.

That point hit home in a New York Times article in November by Jonathan Holloway, president of Rutgers University.

He wrote: “If we Americans listened to one another, perhaps we would recognize how absurd our discourse has become. It is our own fault that political discussions today are hotheaded arguments over whether the hooligans storming the halls of the Capitol were taking a tour or fomenting an insurrection.”

You don’t have to be storming the halls of the Capitol — or our own city halls — to see the negative effects of our unwillingness to listen to each other. It’s also bad for business and erodes leadership at all levels.

It’s not easy to cut through the sheer volume of noise and distractions in today’s world.

Consider:

  • We consume three times as much information daily as we did just a few decades ago.
  • Two-thirds of us can’t ignore our electronic devices. We check them within the hour, if not the minute, after getting an email, text or alert.
  • Most of us check our work emails outside of work hours, including weekends and vacations. Actually, who doesn’t?
  • More than half of us feel jealous, depressed, sad or annoyed after checking updates on our social media accounts.
  • Eighty-one percent of us admit we interrupt conversations, mealtime or playtime with family or friends to check our social media, text messages or email.
  • Three out of five of us spend more free time on our computer than we do with our significant others.
  • Three-quarters of us believe our use of electronic devices has contributed to stress in our lives.

These stats were from a stress management survey that asked 1,000 people about how the flood of information has impacted their lives and how it affects their attention spans and relationships with each other.

In business, we all know that success is based on developing good relationships. That’s true in all aspects of life, which is why it is amazing that in these, the most challenging of times, we are turning a deaf ear to the one core value that matters the most: listening to each other.

If you embrace the concept that listening is a skill and, like any skill, it takes awareness and practice to sustain and grow it, then consider these seven signs, courtesy of the Center for Creative Leadership, that suggest you might need to pay more attention to developing your listening abilities:

  • You find it difficult to concentrate on what someone is saying, especially when the person is complaining or rambling on.
  • You’re always thinking about what you are going to say next, not really hearing what the other person is saying.
  • You shut down when someone questions your ideas.
  • You shut down when confronted with someone’s negative attitude.
  • You’re ready to provide advice and solutions before the person has finished explaining the problem.
  • You tell people why they shouldn’t feel the way they do.
  • You do more of the talking. 

Yogi also said this: “We made too many wrong mistakes.” Don’t let poor listening be one of yours.  

3 Steps Toward Good Listening

  • Don’t talk when others are speaking.
  • Let others know you’re listening through expressions and verbal replies.
  • Be able to repeat what you just heard.

Don Henninger, executive director of Scottsdale Coalition of Today & Tomorrow (SCOTT), spent more than 30 years in the newspaper business in the Valley with The Arizona Republic and Phoenix Gazette, where he served in numerous roles, including managing editor, and at the Phoenix Business Journal, where he was publisher for 14 years. SCOTT is a nonprofit group of business and civic leaders who work to educate and advocate for issues important to the city’s economic health and quality of life.

Is This Listening: Eighty-one percent of us admit we interrupt conversations, mealtime or playtime with family or friends to check our social media, text messages or email.

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