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Ignore the Phone; Listen to the Person

My mother had the uncanny ability to develop deep relationships with a wide variety of people. Her nieces and nephews were close to her, clients were unflaggingly loyal, and colleagues from many years ago still thought of her as an invaluable mentor. 

I once asked my mother what enabled her to develop all of these deep relationships. She responded that whenever she talked with someone, they were the most important person in her life, and she listened to what they had to say intensely. 

Given all the articles lamenting the epidemic of loneliness affecting so many of us, my mother’s words ring even louder and truer. Social media, with its promise of creating community, does not allow us to listen intensely to one person. Video conferencing precludes really listening deeply to each other. (It is hard to listen carefully to a head in a square.) Many societal structures seem to be designed to prevent us from listening deeply. 

To listen intensely, two people must share space and be able to truly see each other. They must take the time to hear and the time to process what is being said. 

The lesson for leaders is clear. In order to develop high trust relationships, you must give the person you are communicating with your total attention. No looking at your watch when it beeps, no fact checking on your phone, and no glancing at the clock to see how much time until your next appointment. The person with whom you are talking is the most important person in your life for the length of the conversation. 

A leader who listens with her whole being will be a leader who can accomplish great things. 

1 Comment

Insightful - and a nice reflection on your mom!

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