As a general rule, most people don’t listen enough. I’m definitely included in “most people.”
You’ve probably heard this before (and maybe you even listened!) in the context of your personal life, but I want to talk about it in a professional context.
When it comes to our personal life, our reasons for being bad listeners are usually self-centered ones. We’re waiting for our turn to speak, we’re too excited about our own stuff, or we’re honestly not that interested in what the other party is saying. Maybe we’re distracted, tired, hungry. Sometimes we talk more than we listen, but honestly more often we just don’t do either. We wall off.
In a professional setting, I think our lack of listening prowess has more to do with feeling like every single second has to be a direct input to a tangible output. At least, that’s what happens to me! We’re all trying to hustle and move needles, and that pushes us into all sorts of short-term productivity traps.
There is a tremendous amount of great information, freely available. You don’t even have to look for it most of the time; people are trying to share it with you. But we avoid it because we’re wrapped up in our own things. We pack our hours tightly and over-schedule because we’ve all got deadlines to hit and quotas to meet. And there’s no getting around it – we do have to do those things. But maybe we can do them better.
A few hours a week of justified content consumption can really pay off dividends in terms of your abilities as a professional. Business insights, leadership development, and overall professional acumen might be hard to measure – the impact of any one piece of content’s impact on that doubly so. But I think it’s obvious that we improve through learning. I think when we stop learning is when we start failing.
If you have a few extra hours (and right now, a lot of us do), go listen. Don’t seek anything in particular, don’t have an agenda, and don’t fall into a justification trap. Just go learn a little. It’s a way to connect us, to increase the total sum of all knowledge, and to improve your own life. Give it a try.