I’ve been on holiday, the first one in a couple of years, and as it winds to a close, I’ve been thinking about starting the New Year in the right spirit. I’ve made the usual resolutions to get more exercise, eat right, live every moment fully, and avoid speeding tickets. But what about a theme, an idea, a mantra for 2014? Something serious to guide my efforts in the new year.
And it hit me somewhere in the recent cacophony of fireworks, champagne corks, congratulations and best wishes for 2014. For me, this year is going to be the year of listening.
We all say we listen. We think we listen to other people. But all too often we’re merely waiting for our turn to speak. We listen to the noisy ones, and miss the quiet ones. We listen to the words, and miss the body language that tells a different story. We listen for the main plot and miss the nuances. We listen and only hear the same old complaints – and we miss the new urgency, or the new slant that warns us that things are not the same anymore.
Most of all, we listen transactionally. That is, we listen in order to do something – to help, to react appropriately, to react angrily, to finish, to close a deal, to connect. But true listening only begins when we let go of our agendas and allow the other person or persons to be fully heard without conditions.
That is very hard to do. We don’t have enough time, or enough bandwidth, or enough patience. Or we’ve heard it all before, or we think we know the answer already.
So my resolve for 2014 is to listen, without conditions, without an answer held at the ready, without holding anything in suspense. My pledge is to do my best to listen in this way to loved ones, to clients, to new acquaintances, and to people I chance to interact with. I won’t always get it right. In fact, I won’t get it right even most of the time. But I hope that with the effort will come a new level of listening that helps the people around me have a better year than last year.
I believe that the only way to cope with information overload is not to shut off the information flow, but rather to stop trying to respond to it transactionally, and instead to listen. I’ll let you know how it goes. What’s your idea for 2014?