Rediscovering the Art of Listening
The spring of 2020 will likely come to be remembered as the dawn of the age of adaptation. Businesses all over the world have been forced to evolve their operations, ways of thinking, and expectations for the future. Extraneous programs and processes are being discovered and discarded, new methods of interaction are being implemented and embraced, and value is being re-examined at every turn.
And if nature has taught us anything, it’s that with adaptation comes evolution.
Like many companies we have shifted to 100% remote work—a drastic shift for us, as we’ve been a heavily onsite culture. The transition has been largely effective though, and even with the headaches associated with adjusting to a new work style (not to mention the added challenges for those dealing with complicated home and family situations) our team has adapted well and been proactive in finding ways to succeed. But there’s one particular change that we didn’t anticipate—and it’s been perhaps the most valuable one we’ve seen.
Since going remote, we’ve had to figure out how to effectively interact over video conference. We use (and love) Zoom, and aside from it being an invaluable tool for communicating virtually, it’s helping us rediscover a skill we hadn’t realized we’d let slip away: the art of listening.
In our previous routine of in-person group meetings, we were often impertinent and exclusive—unintentionally or not. We mistakenly talked over one another, pushed quieter people to the background and tended toward quick thinkers and actors without really listening to all the voices at the table. The less confident were drowned out, and the bold and vocal drove decisions.
With video conferencing it’s nearly impossible to make sense of a discussion if multiple people are talking at the same time. This forces us to hold our tongues and listen—to the comments, ideas and insights contributed by each individual. We’ve found ourselves speaking less, but with more focus, while actively listening to the responses and contributions of others around us. Our teams have become more courteous and respectful of each other—saying “you go first” and “it looks like you have something to say.” And we’ve seen our teams considering each comment with more sincerity than ever before. We are getting much better at listening to everyone in the meeting, and we are listening to understand rather than to respond. Video conferencing has helped give voice to our most soft-spoken individuals and focus to the boldest and most dominant. As a result, we are communicating better and making more informed decisions by listening to each idea, opinion and voice—one at a time.
These are uncertain times, for sure. But as humans, we strive to see every challenge as an opportunity to learn. And for today at least, we are gratefully learning to listen.
“And if nature has taught us anything, it’s that with adaptation comes evolution.”