Are You a Listener?

  Photo courtesy of Vera Kratochvil

Photo courtesy of Vera Kratochvil

A few days ago, I had the opportunity to lead a team through a listening exercise that we frequently use in Ethos workshops. A core component of the exercise is that one person gets to share a story for a full 60 seconds without being interrupted. I enjoy the exercise for a couple of reasons:

  • It's always fun to watch the story teller when she realizes that she doesn't have to worry about being interrupted
  • It's equally entertaining to watch the listener when he is busting to ask a question or say "me too" to something that he is hearing.

As we dissect the exercise with participants, I always like to ask the story teller how it felt to have 60 uninterrupted seconds to say something. Most agree it's weird, and when pressed about why it's weird, they say it's because they are used to people interrupting when they speak. Likewise, I ask the listeners if it was hard to not interrupt for a full 60 seconds and many agree it's exceptionally difficult because their typical flow of communication includes them interrupting the person speaking.

Taken together, what that says is that our world is one of talkers, not listeners. Which are you?