Mindful Listening

Nina* contacted me a month ago. She has been struggling with some work related issues. She is working in the middle management of an IT company, which was bought by a multinational player about 3 months ago.

The processes at her office are in mess these days. Among many things there is no clear job description, goals, agreement on the coming summer holidays and moreover her immediate boss is based in Asia. She has been pondering over her role in the changed scenario. There are lots of uncertainties involved. It has started taking toll on her emotionally.

I could relate with her. I have been working with managers facing similar situations. She told her story and the way it has affected her. We discussed the issue at length and agreed to start coaching.

Empathic listening is a skill, which could be developed. One has to be strategic about it by managing time and energy for an optimum effect. It could be at times emotionally hard as shown in studies done on physicians. When the listening process achieves its goal, it is quite rewarding. It should be then consolidated by asking powerful questions. The key is to explore and track down an enthusiastic and knowledgeable listener.

Ears are not the only organs involved in active listening. One should use eyes, heart, body language and a focused mind in the process. As a matter of fact, the art is learnable. It starts with genuine enthusiasm, mindfulness and always help to have the required knowledge of psychology and human behaviour.

There are enough distractions in the modern world. The ability to listen without biases and with full attention is a rarity. I would argue that organisations and society as a whole are paying a big price for this.The loss is not only financial but in the long run create less sensitive and sensible communities. According to an estimation done in 2012, in Finland the losses to organisation amount to about 30 billion euros annually. The ongoing turmoil in many countries has the roots in inability to listen honestly. Lack of integrity, selflessness and ethical behaviour also play a huge part.

Nina visited my office last week again. She has started processing her dilemmas and our conversations have helped her. Before concluding the last meeting, I requested for feedback. She paused for a while and looked into my eyes. “ I think the best part was that I was listened to,” she answered.

The essence is mutual respect and trust between two parties. It has to be integrated with a democratic organization and principles of equality. We shall endeavour to be better listeners. The rewards would be stronger organisations and happier societies.

* Name and some details changed