The Art of Listening – What Did You Say? I’m Sorry, I Wasn’t Listening!
Listening has become a lost art. We are so busy multi-tasking and connected to our technology (smart phone, iPad, Siri, Alexa, iTunes, and laptop) that we don’t spend time communicating face-to-face or listening to one another. Recently, I was at a meeting where everyone was on their phones texting and reading emails. Not one person in the room looked up to acknowledge others in the room or interact with the group. It’s ironic that if I texted a person in the room who was on their phone, maybe the person would acknowledge me or others.
At CAHL, one of the efforts we are working on is to connect with each of our members at least once during the year. Whether it’s through a virtual or in-person education event, a Board of Governors study group, an Annual Meeting celebration, or a networking event, we want to connect with you.
It’s important that in this era of frenetic chaos, stressful demands, and tight timelines, we slow down, be mindful, and take time to listen to one another. By doing so, we create an open space that fosters diversity and inclusion, and we learn about our colleagues, our work, and how we can create great outcomes by hearing what others have to say.
Here are five workplace considerations for being a better listener:
- Heads up. When you are walking in the hallway or in an office setting, give eye contact to those passing you. It is important to greet everyone from the janitor to the CEO with a smile and a simple hello. Acknowledging others creates a positive environment.
- Phones Down. When attending a meeting, put your phone down and don’t look at it. Give your full attention to the meeting presenter and attendees. I know that for some, this is not possible. Turning off their phone is like going cold turkey! Try and see if you can be more fully present in meetings you attend.
- Don’t Create a Healthcare Hazard. Don’t walk and read your emails or text or when you are on a Zoom meeting. Don’t text while driving! These are potential healthcare hazards and put you at risk for getting injured or even killed.
- Set the Tone. When attending a meeting, see if you can start the meeting with a group round where everyone shares a brief moment of something that is working well for them. This effort creates engagement, positivity, and acknowledges the value of each person in the room. It can also remind teams going through challenges that there are still a lot of great things going on, either personally or professionally.
- Listen to others. Listening to reply is the standard way most people communicate. Instead of paying attention to what the person is saying, we are already thinking about what we want to say in response. Instead, be fully present, show genuine interest in others, ask questions, and listen attentively. Learning better listening skills is a process, but it is worth it because it helps the people around you feel more supported and improves overall communication. Be careful – You may learn something new!
When we listen, we demonstrate our ability to lead others, communicate effectively, and create a space for critical thinking and creative dialogue. Sometimes we need to speak, and other times we need to be heard. How about taking the time to just listen? It is a lost art that none of us are good at all the time, but we must actively work to be better at it. Like anything you don’t do often, the skill of listening degrades if you don’t use it. Give it a try. I’d love to listen to what you’ve learned.
Michael O’Connell, MHA, FACMPE, FACHE I
President, California Association of Healthcare Leaders