Helping leaders emerge


Can You Listen in the Silence?

You need not do anything.

Remain sitting at your table and listen.

You need not even listen, just wait, just learn to be quiet, still, and solitary.

And the world will freely offer itself to you unmasked.

It has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.

– Franz Kafka

Excuse Me for Speaking While You Interrupt Me – The Art of Active Listening

“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.” – Dalai Lama

Most of the time we only listen to the first few words the other person is speaking before we begin formulating a response. And unfortunately, our response typically has little to do with the other person. And as a result, many of our conversations end up like the old “Who’s on First” Abbott and Costello routine.

So it’s not a surprise that many executives express that listening is an important communication skill and part of their continuous leadership development. Simple concept, not easy practice.

Why is it so challenging?

  • We speak at 100-175 words a minute and think at 600-800 words a minute
  • Attention span today is ONLY 2.5 seconds versus 15 seconds few generations back
  • The mind is a chronic wanderer
  • Too much constant stimulation – cell phones, email, etc.
  • Involves being patient, which is challenging in our fast paced, “get it done now” world

Listening tips:

  • Get present
  • Slow down
  • Remove distractions – e.g., turn cellphone on silent
  • Listen without judgment
  • Ask open ended, curious questions versus direct, yes and no
  • Listen to the other person for the first five minutes
  • Do not finish the sentence of the other person or interrupt
  • Pay attention to the body language of the other person
  • Listen for what is being said and for what is not