What we don’t understand, we fear.
What we fear, we attack.
When we attack, we don’t just attack the “thing;”
we also attack the people who support the “thing.”
When we attack the people, we must “win.”
When we must “win,” our attack shifts to the people who favor the “thing.” Reason, understanding, listening to learn, empathy, and compromise have no place in our mind our our heart. Those qualities are seen as weakness – or worse – signs of our own ineptitude.
If we are weak or inept, we cannot lead and we cannot “win.”
When situations escalate to this level, learning and growth are impossible. No one ever actually “wins.” In fact, everyone loses.
And we miss the most important point, and that is that people who see things differently are not our enemies – they are our teachers. What better way to broaden our horizons, expand our knowledge and learn to respect differences than to listen, truly listen to someone that knows something that we don’t, that has experiences that we have not had, that brings a fresh perspective to challenge our version of conventional wisdom.
There is a remedy for these kinds of situations. I call it Elite Listening. I gave it that name because I think it correlates with how we think about an elite athlete; someone with God given gifts that enable her or him to easily and naturally compete at a level that ordinary people cannot comprehend or do. It’s extraordinary, something that the rest of us can applaud but not achieve.
But unlike the God given talents with which elite athletes are blessed, Elite Listening is a learnable skill. It requires some teaching and lots of practice, but anyone who wishes can master it.
It’s a skill that requires that we listen to understand and to learn – not to judge and attack. It requires full, uninterrupted engagement – with no distractions of any kind – when we are interacting with the other person or group. Multitasking sabotages Elite Listening. Multitasking is a torpedo that can sink an unsinkable ship. [pq align=right]Elite Listening is one of the most effective ways on earth to build empathy.[/pq] And empathy is the single most significant quality needed for success in leadership and sales.
Elite Listening does not mean that we surrender our beliefs, our point of view or our solutions. It just means that we suspend them for a brief period of time so that we can hear another’s voice unfiltered by our entrenched biases. We can listen by attempting to actually feel what the other person is feeling, experience what has brought them to their point of view. When we have done that, we can retrieve our own beliefs and quickly discover that they were never lost, just put aside for the moment. But now we can better weigh our views against some new realities, and perhaps realize that there is more than one “right answer,” more than one “best solution,” and that the “other” is not wrong, it’s just different.
There is much more to be said about what comprises Elite Listening and how to become an Elite Listener; far too much to write about here.
But know this. As an individual or as an entity, being an Elite Listener is one of the most overlooked and powerful ways to strengthen one’s Brand known to humankind.