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Have you ever asked a colleague for input only to stop listening to their response? Do you notice that some colleagues are so distracted that they aren’t really listening? They ask a question and move on to something else before hearing the answer.

In this instant gratification society, with the focus on outcomes, we may be losing the art of listening.  Those we are listening to never get to finish their thought. We miss valuable information.

Listening aids in better idea generation, collaborative thinking, and better solutions. Listening works best when we suspend judgment or the need to change someone else’s ideas. As people tell their story, they are able to verbalize and process the information.  If we interrupt them, we take away their time to think and find a solution.

Has our active listening actually become “fake” listening?

We use the verbal and non-verbal cues to show we are listening. The head nods, we mutter the uhms” and “ahas.” Instead, while someone else is talking, we’re busy formulating our response. Worse yet, we’re distracted and thinking about something else.

When we listen and let people finish their story without judgment, people start to feel heard. Active listening turns into conscious listening. It gives people an opportunity to abandon their old paradigms. If people feel heard, they are able to find their own answers. New ideas and thinking can emerge.

An executive recently said, “I don’t have time to listen to people’s stories. All I hear is whining and complaining. I need answers to make our numbers.”

When someone complains, they are uncomfortable with the current situation. They are looking for a better way but may be stuck. Hidden within the discussion is actually the answer. Through listening to the story, we can help our colleague seek a better solution.

By squelching the conversation, we actually perpetuate the same story. We inhibit others to think. It’s no wonder we end up short of the goal.

So, is the issue the company’s failing results? Or are we deficient in listening and unable to make sound business decisions?

The next time you have the urge to interrupt or check out; start listening. Set aside the electronic devices and other distractions and listen. Let your colleague finish their story. By listening, we create a safe place for discussion. Through discussion and collaboration, you pave a path to better business performance.