By E. Elizabeth Carter
In a team setting or frankly in any relationship, one of the biggest problems is communication. For a world where there are so many ways to communicate, we are actually pretty bad at it. When we are in a dialogue with a colleague, family member, or friend, are we really listening to what is being said? The answer is “no”. There are several reasons for this. One is that our attention span is very short so unless the conversation is very engaging, we tend to tune out at times to what others are saying. In addition, we are formulating in our minds questions we want to ask the other person and/or how we plan to respond. The other person may also trigger something in our past when they are speaking and the next thing you know we are day-dreaming about that incident.
Although it is not mentioned much when discussing communication, jealousy also affects our listening. When someone is discussing a vacation, new car, a promotion, or some other exciting thing, it can be our tendency to become jealous. When this occurs, our insecurities come out and we may say or do something to minimize this good news. We are not hearing “this person did/got a great thing” instead we interpret it as “how come she/he is going x or getting y but I am not?”. This can be extremely detrimental in a team setting because these negative emotions can really bring down the morale of the team.
Leaders should always acknowledge successes within a business setting but also be aware that what is being said is not always interpreted the same by others. When a subordinate expresses jealousy, it is very important for the leader not only to listen to what is said but also to try to understand the underlying feelings as well. The leader should also learn from this situation by questioning if the environment is such that others feel comfortable discussing their successes and achievements or if it is a minefield where each positive thing is viewed negatively and then turns into rumors and gossip.
Listening is a very difficult skill, not only because everyone is moving so fast, but because our emotions and a multitude of other things come into play. An ideal world would be if everyone realized that you can learn from every person you meet (some good things and yes, some not so good) but to really learn, one needs to listen effectively. Try letting someone talk for two minutes non-stop and see how difficult it is. If you can recall most of the conversation, determine what you have learned. There are endless possibilities to learn life lessons but we need to improve how we listen before we can get there.