Active Listening: The Skill That Makes The World a Better Place
Unlocking a new mechanism for learning

In his recent book, Humankind, author Rutger Bregman dissects human history to make the case for our goodness. Bregman argues that we are inherently good and we are reinforced by our ability to empathize and bond with others. Most importantly, this bond is built on being seen, heard and understood.

In business, we call this listening. Better yet, active listening. This all-important skill involves open-ended questions, mirroring, and playbacks.

The Skill of active listening (add keyword to heading)

But, is that all there is?

Some years ago, a well-known business leader quoted my partner and wife in her best selling book, saying something to the effect that “Maureen ‘Mo’ Taylor was the first person to tell me to shut up.” As Mo’s husband, I feel her pain. Mo’s point goes to the real challenge of listening: the ability to turn off our ego and (even better) that dreadful voice in our head which feeds our insecurity.

Truly listening requires the ability to suspend judgment, skepticism, and the need for confirmation of our worth. This is often because we talk as a performance instead of listening as a service to others.

Listening in everyday life (another heading needed)

Some years ago, I began a practice of silence in the morning. Once I turn off the alarm, I don’t look at my phone, turn on my computer, or create any sound distractions. I only focus on doing my morning routine in total silence, paying attention to the sounds I make when my feet hit the floor, when I make my bed, and when I ground my coffee.

After a few weeks, I began to say hello to these sounds and landed on the idea of “sound as greeting.” This came in handy during my time in London when I could hear the Victoria Line rumbling below my flat at 6am. These quiet mornings taught me the art of being fully present–a key element to listening.

I started reading books during these morning sojourns and adopted the idea of fully considering everything I read. Instead of being judgmental or skeptical, I accept what I read and allow myself to consider it true–giving the author the benefit of the doubt.

After a few months, I realized I had opened up a new mechanism for learning. Now, instead of pre-filtering what I read, I allow for full consideration then evaluate the ideas over time. It’s become my model for active listening.

Listening and being listened to is a Human Need (added more to heading)

Psychologists tell us that being understood is right up there with food and sex. Some believe it’s our greatest human need. Being understood requires being heard. Being heard requires non-judgmental listening. Non-judgmental listening requires focus and egoless presence. Taken together, this process creates empathy which allows us to bond with others unconditionally.

Rutger Bergman says this empathy and bonding fuels our natural goodness. At SNP, we search the world for good people and help make their truth persuasive in order to make the world a better place. And all of it–the goodness, the empathy, the bonding, the truth–all of it starts with listening.

Quoting the old school communication pros, “It’s not what you say that counts. It’s how you make people feel.” Listening it turns out is not just a powerful tool in business and life, it’s an emotion that makes the world a better place. How about that?

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GMU Live

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