Listening: It’s a Skill? (Yes.)

By Nathan Beavers


In Chapter 8, O’Rourke breaks down the skill of listening. He argues that listening is a skill that many have, yet is severely underdeveloped in most people. This is odd especially for a skill that one uses almost half the time that they are communicating (O’Rourke, 221). O’Rourke also argues that listening is important, as it can prevent confusion and disasters. Other benefits include things such as demonstrating acceptance, promoting problem-solving abilities, increasing the self-esteem of the other person and various other benefits. Listening helps everyone who communicates.


At a company I had worked for we had meetings every period (four weeks) to discuss strategies that the company was using to increase sales, train employees, and several other things that the company felt that the employees needed to know. This was also chance for employees to voice any concerns that they had about anything going on in the store. These meetings were often held with a maximum of four or five people, and with the company having a few dozen employees, everyone knew each other well enough to feel comfortable around everyone else. These meetings were often moderated by our assistant manager, who was by far the most well-liked of our management team, making people even more comfortable about talking what they did or did not like about what the company was doing.


At one point one of the team leaders voiced their concern about how they thought their team and themselves were being treated unfairly by management. They stated that they were not being given enough time to properly do their job and were lacking enough people on their team to even be able to complete the job if they had enough time. The more they talked about it, the more angry and irate they became. All credit to the assistant manager, she stayed calm throughout the team leader’s tirade. The manager let the team leader finish her piece before saying a word. When the manager spoke she started off with saying she knew how the team leader felt, having dealt with the same issues only a few years before, empathizing with her. She asked technical questions about how the team leader was currently handling the situation, how many team members she had, and what she was doing as a part of this. The team leader explained that essentially, she had enough team members working for her and enough hours, but she was refusing to do the work that was her responsibility and giving that work to her team members. By listening to the team leader and having gone through the experiences herself, the assistant manager was able to determine what was happening with the team leader’s team and how things could be fixed.


Even with someone who is determined to be heard rather than listened to, listening can make a huge difference. It can go from someone being furious and venting at one of their superiors about a self-made problem, to the superior calmly explaining that everything could be taken care of if instead of looking for problems, they could do something about it themselves. Practicing adept listening can avoid potentially terrible situations and even stop them right in their tracks.

By mandybowling

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