Rediscovering the forgotten art of listening
Editor's note for April 2021.
According to several colleges and universities that Prairie Business spoke with recently, employers have been telling schools what is most important to them when considering a potential new hire. On their list: effective communication skills.
That is a broad umbrella under which many specifics apply. Some businesses may be looking for someone who can speak publicly without intimidation or fear, for instance, while others may want someone who can write a savvy press release or marketing campaign. Others may want someone who can do both. Likewise, certain companies may be looking for someone who is versed in digital communication skills, someone who knows how to effectively use social media to their advantage or who knows how to communicate through visual means, such as producing photos and videos.
“The bottom line is communication is everywhere, it doesn't matter what field you go into,” said karen Bauer, assistant professor of journalism at Bismarck State College. (Bauer spells her first name with a lowercase “k.”) Doctors meet with patients, reporters with sources, sales reps and consultants with clients, cashiers with customers. “You've got communication everywhere you look.”
More about communication can be found in our story in this issue titled “Communicating in business,” but there is a counterpart skill that is often overlooked: listening.
According to a 2018 article by Insider , listening skills are one of the most overlooked and underappreciated life skills but one that is extremely important for those in business.
“Strong conversational skills aren't just for salespeople, though,” writes the author of the article, Omar Tawakol. “Everyone – from CEOs and product managers to newly minted college graduates – could use a crash course in the forgotten art of active listening.”
Think of what could be accomplished if more people, instead of just hearing words, truly listened to their colleagues and customers.
I walked out of a car dealership once because I felt like the sales representative wasn’t listening to what I was saying about the kind of vehicle I wanted. Instead, he was trying to sell me something I had expressed concerns about. I went elsewhere and found what I was looking for, partly because someone listened and worked with me on getting the kind of vehicle I wanted.
Another time my wife, after telling me about a project she wanted to complete, asked me a follow-up question. I replied in a way that made her believe I hadn’t been paying attention.
“I heard you,” I said.
“Yes,” she replied. “But you weren’t listening.”
Hearing the sound of someone’s voice is different than actually listening to what they are saying. It is a lesson I have learned by being at both ends of the spectrum at one time or another.
Perhaps it is time to rediscover the forgotten art of listening.
Journalism is all about communication, including listening, but it’s a skillset that also is important in just about any other business.
As Bauer said: “I think communication is a skill that anyone could tap into in any industry.”
Andrew Weeks may be reached at 701-780-1276 or aweeks@prairiebusinessmagazinecom.