Are you listening?

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Why do we listen?  Now that’s an easy question isn’t it!  To hear what someone is saying either with their words or perhaps their music, right.  But it’s more than that, its about understanding.  As well as the what, there’s the context of the why, the how or even the where and when that will add to our interpretation and hence our understanding of what we hear.

Add to that all the range of motivations or the personal agenda we may or may not bring to the listening process. Perhaps we are reluctant (and probably therefore distracted) listeners. Perhaps we are listening in order to get confirmation of our own opinions (and hence may listen selectively or interupt).

In this video AMGEN CEO Kevin Sherer talks about  his epihany about listening, when he heard IBM’s Sam Palsimano talk about what he learned about listening from his stint in Japan.  It turns out that because he was listening to peole talking in a language either he or they were not fluent in, he had to focus solely on “listening to comprehend” .  He listened with only one objective:

 I was only trying to understand what the person was trying to convey to me. I wasn’t listening to critique or object or convince…” 

http://www.mckinseyquarterly.com/App_Themes/v2.0/swf/external_player.swf

The clarity of this observation has clearly had a significant impact on Kevin Sherer, and it has prompted me to be more aware and present when listening.
Perhaps it’s appropriate that this insight, in this instance, had its beginning in Japan – it feels like the sort of thing a Zen buddhist would say!
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