Posted by: healingtheworkplace | August 11, 2013

The Importance of Listening

I recently came across a TED talk by Julian Treasure.

Julian is an expert on listening and he is leading a crusade to encourage us to improve our ability to listen to each other.

You see, everything we do at work, if we want to do it well, depends on our ability to listen:

Dealing with conflict
Quality improvement/customer service
Developing relationships
Employee engagement

And yet, we are in danger of losing something that is so important.

“We are losing our listening,” cautions Treasure. This is a serious problem as listening is our access to understanding and making meaning of what we hear. He goes on to say that, “A world where we don’t listen to each other at all is a very scary place indeed” and suggests that people are more prone to conflict and violence when they feel that they haven’t been listened to.

Treasure advocates that we spend some time each day in silence or a least being quiet for a few minutes.

I understand what Mr. Treasure is saying. On two occasions in the past month I have had the experience of not being listened to. In fact, on both occasions, not only did I not feel listened to I felt like I was being accused of lying.

On the first occasion I had taken my car to the mechanic’s because the brakes were “fading”. This was a concern for two reasons: 1. my safety and the safety of others and 2. I had paid the mechanic to repair the brakes a few months ago. My husband suggested that the brakes had not been properly “bled” but when I mentioned this to the clerk at the garage she immediately told me that I was wrong! End of discussion! Needless to say I don’t think that she was interested in listening to what I had to say at all.

Long story short…I won’t be going back to that garage any time soon.

On the second occasion I was visiting my dad at the nursing home where he lives. This was the second visit in a week and both times I had found him sitting by himself in the hallway while there was an event happening in the activity room. My dad is totally dependent on the staff. He uses a wheelchair which he can’t propel by himself and he is confused a lot of the time.

The first time I found my dad sitting in the hallway I took him down the activity room myself as there was no staff around. The second time I approached two of the care staff who were working in an office nearby and I mentioned that this was the second time in a week that I had found him sitting by himself in the hallway. Both of them immediately challenged me saying this was not true. Apart from the fact that they are paid to look after my father I certainly did not feel that they had any intention of listening to me. In fact they might as well have called me a liar.

Listening is something that we take for granted but being a good listener is not easy and in fact it requires considerable skill to really and truly listen well. I will come back to this in the next post. Until then pay attention to how well you listen to other people in your life.

What do you think, are we losing our ability to listen to each other?


  1. I didn’t watch the Ted clip yet – but your experience in the facility with your dad is all too common. A very important piece of our humanity is our ability to listen and to make “sense” out of our world through the gift of our senses – not just the visual one (which, in humans is puny). In your case, both your father and the staff are losing a huge piece of humanity. It is likely these staff members have become numb in the work place themselves – anaesthetized to the numbing, barren, souless ‘sound’ of institutions. What is in this environment to which to listen? We can say it’s there job to listen, but regulation doesn’t work when it comes to how our brains and nervous system are wired. When the environment is aesthetically bankrupt, we stop listening – it takes too much of the wrong kind of energy to listen to negative, discharging sounds. When we neglect to care about worthy sounds in our sound environment, we neglect our humanity. So the staff, your father and you – are not listened to – and it could be so much different if we considered the aesthetic balance we all need. It isn’t the whole answer, but caring for the sound environment is a step in the right direction. Below is a link to an article I wrote on this topic. Blessings to you and your dad Lesley!

  2. My ‘visual’ sense just clicked in, and I noticed a few syntax mistakes – my apologies. 🙂

  3. First of all, love, love, LOVE!
    I always liked the comment “usually the quietest person in the room is the smartest”. I think that’s because they’re listen and have learned that listening makes them smarter. Talking can lead you to offending people.
    “Better be perceived as an idiot by keeping your mouth closed than to open it and remove all doubt.”

    Great post!


    • Thanks Julian!

  4. Maybe we were given 2 ears and 1 mouth for a reason?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: