Monday Morning Moment – Are You Listening? Or Are You Silencing Voices?

Photo Credit: Flickr

Let’s start on the grandest scale possible. Even the God of the universe invites us to speak to Him…and He listens and actually hears us.

Something to aim for with each other…on the smallest scale of our lives.

We love when little babies recognize our voices as attached to people they have grown to know and love in their short lives. Then they discover their own voices, and we celebrate that milestone. That magical power of making their observations and requests understood must be life-changing for them…and for us.

At some point, years down the road, we begin to tune out a little…and we model it for them, farther down the road.

This “tuning out” is why courses in active listening abound in universities, and not just in the communications department.

In our adult lives, of work and community, we are wise to take a measured look, from time to time, at how we listen and whether we silence the voices around us by our behavior.

Leadership coach Kate Nasser posted a bold article on the workplace scenario of silencing employees.

She doesn’t hold back on leaders’ responsibility in this, but I view this as applicable to any part of our community, whether it be marriage, family, friendship, or religious/political affiliation. A brief summary of Nasser’s 15-point checklist follows:

  1.  Look unapproachable.
  2.  Have a thin skin and make it about you.
  3.  Do not ask for input.
  4.  Bully and berate others or their ideas.
  5.  Speak only to those who make you comfortable.
  6.  Ignore ones who raise issues.
  7. Create a hierarchy of those you speak with and those you don’t.
  8.  Claim you want innovation but demand proof during the creative phase.
  9.  Take credit for others’ ideas.
  10.   Accuse and blame in public.
  11.   Nit-pick on details when ideas are first offered.
  12.   Change the subject without acknowledging what was said.
  13.   Pit one person against another.
  14.   Override every decision others make.
  15.   Lead chaotically with constant exaggerations and untruths.

Insidious Leadership: Are You Silencing Employees? – Kate Nasser

Whew! That was rough, huh? None of us are probably characterized by all those points. However, did any of them smart a little? We don’t want to be that kind of person…probably none of us…that kind of person who, by our behavior and attitude, silence another person’s voice. We all lose when that happens.

Dealing with our realities helps us to listen actively. Our realities may include over-work, weighty responsibility, and seemingly inadequate freedom or resources to make change. Don’t we want to be active listeners…to gain from those around us and empower them to be successful? We can become effective listeners again.

YouTube Video – The Power of Listening – William Ury – TEDxSanDiego

We may think we are good listeners. We make eye contact. We “give face” to those around us. However…hear this. Do others’ ideas make us tired? Do we have a strong grip on “the way it is” and have no intention on giving way…no matter how well we think we’re listening. Author and mediator William Ury (see TED Talk above) speaks of true communication through “a listening revolution”. First we listen to ourselves to discover our own desires, dreads, and dreams. Then we learn how to listen with understanding and with the determination of acting on what we hear. Actually, listening, with the goal of understanding, is the first action we take.

“Give them our full attention and listen to the human being behind the words, because one of the biggest gifts we can give anyone is the gift of being heard.”William Ury

Photo Credit: Flickr

I’ve had more experiences than usual with doctors over this past year. As we all know, they have the reputation for not being “good listeners”, for not “giving voice”. I can tell you the ones I hope not to see again or the ones who are visibly backing out the door before my questions have been answered. There are still others who “give face” – eye contact and a seemingly engaged look (from years of practice maybe) – who have clearly still moved on to the next patient, even while still standing by my bed.

Then…there is the one or two – those beloved physicians – who actually sit by us, in the exam or hospital room. They treat us as if we’re the only patient they have that day. We talk together, and I know that we are partners in keeping me healthy. Right? Partners – not the greater and the lesser actors in a scene, but partners.

Kudos to you out there – physicians, bosses, colleagues, spouses, parents, children – who don’t just have the look of listening or communicate some sort of nuanced “I hear you”. Kudos to you who really listen and engage with the other.

We are not all just a set of ideas or opinions. Real people bring a voice to the table. When we communicate that we are too busy or too important or too settled already on a decision to consider one more voice, we speak volumes about our own character…and eventually the product or service we have to offer.

[I’m preaching to myself here…reminded of the God of the universe who takes the time and action to assure us that we will be heard… when we speak to Him. Sometimes, I cry out to this small world of mine, demanding to be heard…when there is a place, a Person, who always welcomes me. Please forgive my waxing a bit philosophical or theological. For me, it’s a good place to start in 1) sorting out what exactly I want to voice, and 2) practicing listening to another with the same honor/respect I wish for myself.]

We are not just the ones who silence voices or the ones who feel we are not being heard. We can be both, and usually are.

Listening, determined to understand, brings us closer to both leading well and following better. Something to think about on this Monday morning.

Don’t miss the links below. Really excellent reads on how we silence one another’s voices and how to we turn it around.

Insidious Leadership: Are You Silencing Employees? – Kate Nasser

Can Your Employees Really Speak Freely? – James R. Detert & Ethan R. Burris – Harvard Business Review

6 Reasons Employees Must Speak Up to Thrive at Work – Glenn Llopis

7 Tips for Wooing Your Employees Into Loving Their Jobs, Again – Matt Straz

Monday Morning Moment – Ignoring in the Workplace and the Powerful Practice of Noticing – DebMillsWriter

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2 thoughts on “Monday Morning Moment – Are You Listening? Or Are You Silencing Voices?”

  1. Good reminder. I like the example of a doctor- so true. And it is so easy to just think others do it when we may also need to own not valuing what others say. Especially as you said when we’ve already decided our view or next steps and don’t bother hearing any other view.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Christie. Yes, it is definitely a good exercise in keeping honest to do Kate Nasser’s checklist (or some other check) on my own heart, attitude, and behavior. I want to be the sort of person who really listens, such that the person knows he/she has been heard, and their voice truly has a place in the discussion. It’s a discipline, for sure.

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