Where are we listening from?

“The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply.”

Stephen R. Covey – 1932-2012, Author and Speaker.

After much thought over the last couple of days and based on experiences and discussions at recent meetings wherein issues came up due to a lack of appreciation of the other person's perspective, I decided to share my thoughts on “the art of listening”. Coincidentally, this morning the above quote from Stephen R. Covey came into my in-box – the universe on this occasion had a great way of telling me to stop thinking and start writing…

“She/he doesn’t listen”, “they do not do what they are told”, “he/she is wrong”, “why don’t they do it the way I told them to do it”, “you don’t understand” – do any of these phrases sound familiar? How familiar?

Approximately 17 years ago I had an operation and as a result from complications, I lost my memory – I was 40 years old and had travelled to many places, gained much experience, learnt many things and suddenly, my mind was a complete blank page! The purpose of this article is not to go into lengthy detail of my memory loss story but to share what I learnt about the power of “listening” and most importantly where we are “listening from” in how we achieve the best results when dealing with others.

There is so much going on in our busy day… how many thoughts were going through your mind when you clicked on this article. What is going on at the back of your mind when you are reading this? All of these thoughts affect how well you are listening and what message is actually taken away. It is possible for different people to take away a different message from listening to the same thing, or from reading the same piece. This is because we all listen from different perspectives based on not only what is happening to us at that very moment but also our background and experiences shape “our place of listening”. 

When my mind was a “blank page” it very much changed the way I listened to people. I found myself very much focussed on what the other person was telling me as I was eager to learn and every message was new and I was not creating any type of “my take on it” as I had nothing to base it upon. What I heard was what the person communicating to me wanted me to know, without any prejudice.

Many times, I find myself wishing I could go back to those months as I find myself listening with prejudice rather than truly listening to what the person speaking to me would like me to know.   I think that Covey’s quote is perfect because it describes today`s scenari we truly listen so that we can reply rather than to understand. Matter of fact, this is something that we need to consider carefully when giving instructions to our team and receiving their feedback or receiving feedback from our guests about their experience in our hospitality establishment. What are they really telling us? Are we truly hearing what they are telling us or anxious to move forward with what we think is best!

Having led various projects with my hospitality consulting/ hotel consulting work, which has spanned various countries and cultures, I often needed to stop and consider this important element when working on new hotel openings, and working with team members or communicating with hotel guests. This is because the nuance of the message may need to change, depending upon who is your audience. How I give instructions to a Maltese person can be very differently interpreted when giving the same instruction to someone from Indonesia. With workforces across the globe becoming more and more diverse, especially in the hospitality industry, we need to consider how we tailor our communications to maximise understanding of the correct message, across the organisation. What is more, is that how we gather and react to feedback requires a different approach.

When talking to teams or individuals about how to become more effective in their work the phrase: `let`s improve communication` is ever present. However, I believe that improving our ability to listen from a blank page and really trying to understand the true message of the person who is communicating with us (verbal or written) is the key to improving all round efficiency.

Listen to understand rather than simply to reply is a great way of putting it…

Take it from someone who has had the opportunity to experience the difference! Also, on the flip side, when communicating a message to others, take into consideration their ability to listen and their perspectives, as the impact will be far greater than you may think. 

Listen from a blank page and communicate in the most ideal way in which your audience will actually be receptive and listen!

Impact Consulting works with clients in all industries to “get the basics” right and create the right tools so that your team is on board and heading in the same direction. This ultimately has an impact on your operation’s bottom line. Through our Hospitality Consulting services we specialise in Hospitality Customer Experience and Hospitality Quality Assurance. 

Drop us a line on robyn.pratt@impact-consult.org if you would like to enquire about our Hospitality Customer Experience Services.

Follow us on our Impact Consultancy Limited page for news and updates.