The Power of Active Listening

The Art of Being Fully Present

The Power of Active Listening
The Power of Active Listening

The Art of Being Fully Present

The Power of Active Listening: The Art of Being Fully Present 

I worked with Miranda (name changed), an executive impatiently racing up the corporate ladder. Though clearly brilliant, turnover ran high among Miranda’s staff. In meetings, I observed her constantly interrupting people, staring at her phone rather than holding eye contact. Her distracted behaviour left subordinates feeling unheard and frustrated. 

During a tense exchange where Miranda shut down an employee’s idea without asking clarifying questions, I gently took her aside. Rather than accusing her of poor listening skills outright, I asked Miranda to describe her communication style from her vantage point and then how she thought others might experience it. 

Miranda admitted she prioritized efficiency over creating space for nuanced discussion. My probing revealed Miranda simply modelled the communication style prevalent in her hard-charging industry. Despite good intentions, she paid a price via workplace relationships strained by burnout and mistrust from staff feeling bullied or ignored.

Through this exchange, Miranda awakened to crucial soft skills eclipsed by her task-driven focus. We evolved her leadership approach to blending drive with emotional intelligence via a little-understood leadership art: mastering active listening.

The Perils of Passive Listening 

Many of us retain an illusion we listen well when, in truth, we passively hear words without absorbing their meaning. Our attention scatters, silently composing our own rebuttals while others speak or impatiently wait for our turn.

This instinctive reflex may free our minds to multitask. But it sabotages mutual understanding. When people feel dismissed or unheard, tension and distrust fill the void.

What Active Listening Requires 

Active listening asks us to resist the myth that attention-juggling makes us excellent communicators. Instead, it compels slowing down, concentrating completely on the speaker, and suspending our own agenda aside momentarily. 

Skilled active listening includes:

  • Facing the speaker squarely, leaning in as appropriate, nodding along with their rhythm
  • Eliminating physical and mental distractions to concentrate completely. 
  • Probing with thoughtful clarification questions to deepen understanding.
  • Paraphrasing back the essence of what you hear
  • Withholding debate or judgments until fully digesting the perspective

This method keeps you focused on comprehending the above rebutting. You enter conversations with openness instead of presupposition.

Active Listening Unlocks Connection

What rewards flow from the patience and presence of active listening demands?

Listeners become trusted sounding boards. When people feel heard, they share openly and admit vulnerabilities, strengthening bonds.

You grasp nuances and meanings that passive listening misses, allowing more aligned decisions informed by truth, not assumptions.

You build “psychological safety” where people take risks, creativity thrives, and stagnation can’t grip teams.

Surely, productive communication also warrants respectful debate and solution-building. But well-intended fixes fail if people don’t first feel listened to. 

Active listening lays that critical foundation. Like any art, practicing self-restraint and focused presence builds skill over reflex.

Barriers to Overcome 

In micro-moments all day, opportunities emerge to either actively listen, half-listen distractedly or force your own narrative. Common hurdles threatening full presence include:

  • An overactive inner voice cluttering your thoughts rather than quieting your mind.
  • Treating listening gaps as invitations to conjure counterarguments rather than asking clarifying questions. 
  • The myth is that there’s virtue in quick responses and danger in thoughtful silence.

When we don’t carve out room for understanding others, efficiency becomes our master – human connections, our casualty.

Yet when leaders tune into voices they’d normally tune out, unexpected beauty emerges. People dare to risk, innovate, and collaborate purposefully just by leaning in as they speak.

Unlock Your Potential