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listening , an underated skill

LISTENING, AN UNDERRATED SKILL

It is a well-known fact that listening skills are important. Nothing new there. What may be newer and more interesting is the fact that understanding other’s thoughts and perspectives makes a very significant impact on how valued people feel and, therefore, how happy they are. Just like that, you can make people around you happier, more engaged, and definitely more inspired. If you care about others, if you are a manager, a taxi driver, a parent, a teacher or an artist, these few lines may be of interest to you.

Let’s align on what I mean with happiness.  Sometimes, happiness is confused and interchanged with success. They may be related but they are not the same. You can be very successful at your job achieving the higher ranks, as a parent making sure your kids are top notch, as an athlete qualifying for the Olympics, as a free spirit sailing the world while throwing coconuts at the sea and enjoying the sound of the splash, etc. However, all that success does not necessarily make humans happier. It is debatable that success is conducive to happiness and, certainly, success is not at the core of happiness.

Success will fulfill your senses, but it is happiness that will fulfill your heart. This is the happiness I am referring to. Essential to happiness is the need to feel valued and understood. This has become fundamental in the whirlpool of ideas and distraction of today’s world. Making others feel they are being noticed and not being left behind is a beautiful power, with consequences far better than mere professional utility.

Neural Research conducted by Stanford University in collaboration with the University of Califormia demonstrated that feeling understood activated neural regions associated with reward and social connection (i.e. ventral striatum and middle insula), while not feeling understood activated neural regions associated with negative affect (i.e. anterior insula ).  When people are asked to describe a negative experience in their life, not having that description understood creates a more negative effect than the negative experience itself. And it works both ways: having a description of a positive experience understood creates a more positive effect than the experience itself does.

Just think: every day, in every single conversation, with every individual person, we have a wonderful opportunity to make people feel understood and valued. Let’s exercise this power. It translates into engagement, passion, resiliency, and overall happiness.

We should do our best to understand each other better – if someone else has a different approach to a project, a different perspective on a social issue, or a different opinion on the best vacation place, let’s be curious and engage in the conversation by listening. We will get new ideas, different points of view, and approaches. More importantly, we will show how much we care about others’ ideas. A nice win-win. Happier people that feel noticed, understood, and connected will be more engaged, more open to participate, and a lot more resilient.

So, next time when in a meeting, let’s remember this: let’s pay attention to others. Let’s fine tune our ears, listen better, and be curious about other’s solutions and approaches. If you don’t arrive at a better solution, you will certainly arrive at a more engaged and happy organization that will get to the solution you are looking for. Disconnect your phone, close your messenger, email, and endless distractions in our computers and phones. Let’s pilot how it goes when we focus on the people that are with us. It’s easier said (or written!) than done, but it’s certainly a great experiment to try.

So, without further words, and wishing you a lot of happiness… and success too!

Diana