Developing good listening skills is hard to prioritize. It stays in the “important but not urgent” arena until someone you care about is really mad at you, or something at work is on fire, and you know it’s at least partially your fault. There are key moments when listening well really counts: usually when tempers are flaring or something that’s been boiling below the surface has finally erupted. It’s tempting to try to quell the storm; to focus on putting out a fire, instead of doing the hard work of exploring the fire to find out where the problem started.
Fire exploration is HARD. The preference to avoid it is extremely understandable. However, if you’d like an office culture that’s truly healthy instead of just “charred, but not on fire anymore,” it’s absolutely necessary. One of the best ways to get started is to improve your listening hygiene.
“Hygiene” is something that is worked on in various capacities multiple times every day. We wash hands, brush teeth, comb hair, wear deodorant & clean clothes, tote sanitizer and floss (occasionally)… we approach cleanliness from many angles. We also aren’t clean all the time! The natural course of life necessitates that we put effort into becoming hygienic once again: food gets in our teeth, our nails grow, clothes get dirty, etc.
It’s the same with listening. If we aren’t intentional about staying present and open, the busyness of life will assure that we end up closed off, tense and hurrying from calendar event to calendar event without checking in with those around us. This is the reason why I encourage leaders to think about listening hygiene: it’s an ongoing process that requires daily attention and effort.
With that in mind, here are 5 tips for improving your daily listening hygiene:
This is not an exhaustive list! Listening hygiene is multi-faceted. Feel free to leave other tips for good listening hygiene in the comments.