Is this thing on?

Does my daughter have a hearing problem? I better get that checked out… Nope, no hearing problem. I do not understand how I say “put your plate in the sink” three times with no action and when I raise my voice, miraculously I am heard. Then I am the mean yelling mom who no one likes, least of all the mean yelling mom. Is it normal to be ignored? Maybe she is learning that from me. As she is having her massive temper tantrum and I just stand there shaking my head up and down like I am listening, but not reacting she fully consumes the ‘no reaction or action’. I hear her, but cannot respond in any way that would not make things worse. I let her work it out. Sometimes that is just what people need; a listening ear with no action or response. Letting people work aloud what they need to, whether it is a tantrum, figuring out their feelings or external processing. Sometimes they are sharing something that maybe the receiver just need to hear and absorb later. The listening skill is to discern. Maybe you have to nod your head to show you are listening and other times you do need actively listen to really hear what is being said. With my daughter I pick which I can do in the moment. Temper tantrum – I am just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Although never should one be a “punching/listening” bag for anyone. I make the exception for my child because I somehow feel responsible for her tantrums…

Listening is hard. It’s active. It is work. You have to want to listen, not just allow the other person to speak and nod your head. People are smart, they can tell the difference when you are “creating space” to allow them their time, versus when you are genuinely open to absorb, consider, and reflect all they are saying. When active listening doesn’t happen or the environment doesn’t allow for all types of people to share, it leaves those in the interaction feeling dismissed. A sure fire way to result in limited engagement.

I recently was on the sidelines watching as the leader of the group, the facilitator of the conversation, had their biases, their agenda, their views, and clearly wasn’t interested in differing opinions or allowing the conversation to move in an alternative direction. After all there was an agenda to get through…We all know we “should” create an inclusive environment and allow for challenges and comments, but when the leader of the conversation does not allow that to happen, people are dismissed obviously or passively. Either way this is a harsh trigger for anyone who fought hard through inequities for their seat at the table, or have felt dismissed by bosses, peers, or others in the course of their life. Sticking to the agenda is not the way to ensure people are engaged. It was so painful (and awkward) to see smart people, with something to contribute, stifled, and then check out of the interaction all together.

When you ask people to voice their opinion, maybe they do and maybe they don’t, since it is highly dependent on the environment created. They say an organization should worry when their smartest people stop speaking up. True. AND if your quietest people find their voice to speak up, you may want to lean in and listen more. Usually what they are saying is to start the dialogue, to test the waters, and depending on the response they will either let what they said be enough or continue to provide information on their perspective. This is especially true for crucial decision making when the stakes are high and emotions are involved. I last served on a team where my voice was smaller. It was harder for me to share what I thought. But during a critical team decision I felt it was important to share my perspective. It was disregarded with a prompt rebut that I ‘had the problem’. Two others felt the same, but majority ruled. Two months later when my prediction became reality I was asked why I didn’t speak up at the time we made the decision. SAY WHAT??? I rolled up my sleeves and stood up taller and said “I did speak up, but what I shared was disregarded so I didn’t take it any further.” No ownership from the other person on the environment they create or that maybe they weren’t listening. The response was “I should speak louder” and “not be so quick back down”. Again, SAY WHAT??? As leaders and facilitators, there is a responsibility to hear what is not being said, to listen closely and invite more. Listening can be our super power. Lack of really hearing can be our demise. I encourage you to dig deep and think about if you really want to hear what those around you say or are you “creating the space” since you know you should.

“Listen with the same passion with which we want to be heard” – Harriett Lerner

Published by rachaelsarahgass

Working mom, wife, friend, sister, organizational psychologist, learner, coach. Kindness Counts. People First. Integrity Always.

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