Monday, January 02, 2017

The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand. We listen to respond.

I don’t know the exact origins but for many years now I have often said to colleagues that we have two eyes, two ears and one mouth, and that is the proportion in which we should use them. The management literature abounds with entreaties for us to listen better, to develop listening skills, to be reactive listeners, and to listen first before speaking. But have we learnt the lesson.

I would like to thank the people at Swish Design for the post from which I have taken my title. Finding it was an OS!M[1].

Yes it is true.

Often we are waiting for the gaps, or the breaks, or when we think the speaker has finished (or had enough time) so that we can inject our piece of “communication”.

Often we break the sequence of discussion, or inject content of little value, or just say the same thing again.

We listen to respond. We build our own ideas, not necessarily creatively building on the ideas of others.

Our behaviours are less supportive and more directive. We miss messages, and opportunities. We just fail to listen. Our agenda not theirs.

As Kelly Exeter from Swish Design ( says:

I think any of us who are in client facing roles have experienced this – that thing where we spend most of the conversation formulating our reply to the person we’re speaking to. So much so that we forget to actually listen to them.

Which in turn prevents us from understanding what their actual problem is …

[1] Oh Shit! Moment

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