Thursday, September 6, 2012

Listening In to Conversations

Active listening is a useful set of skills for capturing the interests and needs of a person. Language comprises surface structure and a deep structure. A ‘chair’ is a piece of furniture when we describe concrete thinking, and ‘chair a meeting’ is an abstraction (of a set of behaviors). The deep layers of language require us to listen attentively and acutely, so as not allow abstract reasoning to escape from our awareness.

Active listening is a soft skill, fraught with the risk of confusion, vagueness and ambiguity. If you do not ask questions, you may be misled by the ebb and flow of the conversation. If you drift into boredom, you may miss chunks of useful information presented or hidden in the jetsam and flotsam of a person’s language. Pay attention also to the body language of doubt, confusion and emotions inherent in their manner. Look, and be able to ‘see’. Observe, identify with, and detect signals and cues. Work off responses and feedback.

Leadership Lessons: How often do you practise active listening? How astute and accurate are your listening skills? What can you glean from pedestrian conversations? How close do you keep your ears to the ground of your organization?

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