Federico Fellini, important director and filmmaker of the 20th century once said: “If there were a little more silence, if we all kept quiet…maybe we could understand something”. This quote hangs above my office desk and moves me every time I read it. Silence is indeed a rare occurrence in our 21st century media-saturated lives. Yet silence and with that listening, is the one most important moment out of which a meaningful conversation can emerge. This might seem like a paradox. No one likes the moments of awkward silence in a discussion. But don’t you think it is O.K. to pause for the purpose of listening and thinking about what was just said?
Professional relationships are helpful when we understand what they are about, when we can build them to support us in our visions and goals, when we listen to what the other person has to offer.
Listening as a tool to build relationship is important because
- Listening conveys interest. If you listen attentively, you give your conversation partner a cue that you are interested. Listening is validating. Have you ever experienced how people start to open up when you really listen to them?
- Listening provides understanding. You learn about the other person’s intent, their goals, needs and struggles. This is extremely important information for you as you are trying to build or improve your relationship. Now you can respond adequately, tailoring your response to the person you have in front of you.
- Listening is de-escalating. In emotionally loaded conversations, listening rather than re-acting slows down the tempo, and with it, the heat of the conversation. It makes it so much easier to not get caught up in your counterpart’s emotion. Then you can take a breath and seek clarification. If you succeed in focusing on listening only – no emotional involvement – it will be so much easier to deal with this challenge in conversation.
I encourage you to try it out this week: How much can you really listen to a person? How does it change the outcome of your conversation? Is it more satisfying? Do you build a closer bond to the other person?
Let’s bring a little more silence and openness to our work life. With a slower tempo and bigger ears we can start to respond according to the situation and make our relationships meaningful and satisfying.
Have fun with it and let me know how it goes. I am looking forward to your comments and thoughts!
Read more on listening strategies in “Messages, the Communication Skills Book” written by McKay, Davis, and Fanning, psychologists and writers in the field of mental health.