When it comes to conversations, nobody likes that guy.
They don’t converse with you. They talk at you. They might hear the sounds you’re making. But they definitely don’t hear the words you’re saying.
No matter where you meet these bad listeners—be it at work, in the gym, or at the bar—their behavior is often unlikable. But it’s within the workplace, where we spend one third of our life, where it can be especially damaging.
That’s because organizations thrive through collaboration. Collaboration requires connection. Connections are created through communication. And communication is the sharing—the giving and taking—of information.
Considering that listening is half of communication, bad listeners can be a major drain on both workplace culture and the bottom line. Because when employees feel unheard, they feel disconnected, disrespected, and, ultimately, disengaged.
In contrast, great managers understand—and embrace—the power of active listening which is “the ability to focus completely on a speaker, understand their message, comprehend the information and respond thoughtfully.”
Active listeners aren’t merely hearing what others say. They’re interpreting the meaning of the words, while understanding the identity and values of the other person in an authentic way that creates connection, builds trust, and drives engagement. That makes active listening an essential tool for any manager seeking to kickstart conversations about cultural issues in their workplace.
Such conversations aren’t easy. But managers should resist the temptation to turn to email or messengers, recall the power of a personal approach, and remember the words of Malcom Forbes: “The art of conversation lies in listening.”