Off late, I have come across a lot of examples and situations in my personal & professional life that had gone in a totally different directon because of the influence of listening skills. Do we need a special 'skill' to listen? Or just by having a set of ears mean that you are a good listener? I beg to differ. I have also found that many of the problems - starting from the ones in your day-to-day life up to world affairs - can be effectively solved if both the parties in arbitration develop some kind of listening skills.
When I took up this new assignment mid last year, I was meeting with managers & analysts at different levels as a part of my on boarding process and I had this telephonic conversation with a senior manager (some 25+ years in the present organization). She is in a distant location and I have not even exchanged emails with her before - the first interaction. We introduced each other and talked about the background and experience and the general expectations from each of us. She then started talking about where she grew up, her family, kids, family life and philosophical outlook and on and on... And I just listened with patience when the talk went on about how bad she thinks life had treated her, how frustrated she is with her job, her personal life and differences with in the family. In a few minutes, I realized that I was becoming a weeping shoulder to someone whom I had never met, never spoken to before and have very less chances of even working together in a team! At the end of it, a full hour, she thanked me for listening to her and did not forget to apologize to me for piling me up with her frustrations. Since then, we share a very cordial work relationship.
Another instance was recently, a month back, with one of the Project Manager - who is very senior by age (in her late 50s). I used to meet her in the hall way when I go to the Cafeteria or the Bank. This time, she looked very depressed and sulking and as I walked past her, I asked this question... "Hey XYZ... Are you OK? You look very tired...". Unexpectedly, she stopped and told me that she is not OK. Her mom had expired the last week and she was very much concerned about her dad (who was in 90s) being all alone by himself at this age. When she said this she almost broke down and mentioned to me that... "Thank you Santosh - that you asked. All I wanted was somebody to listen to me and help me drain out the stress that I have accumulated over the week". And I was surprised! Because she stays with her family, have kids and grand kids, but none had the time to take a break from their busy schedules and empathize with her.
Sometimes I feel we all get very busy with our own lives, or pretend to be busy with our own lives and forget the humanitarian part of it ... that we all are human beings, we all will need some kind of support at some point of time. Spending some time to "keep our mouth shut" and listening actively would enlighten you in many ways. You get to know the perspectives of others, what they are going through & how they feel about it. It definitely makes you a better individual in terms of emotional & philosophical maturity.
I have personally known people who respond to emails with out reading them out completely (read the first few lines & then bingo!) and understand what they are trying to communicate. Many a times when I get responses similar to that, I just pick up the phone, call them, request them to read the mail completely, and most of the times I could visualize they biting their tongue... "Ouch... I should have read the mail completely before sending that one out". So, what is that called? Prejudice? When you allow your prejudice to drive your actions, you can't expect anything better than where you are now or even worse. You are shutting out a communication channel which otherwise could be invaluable inputs in developing yourself as an individual, or an innovative business plan, or sometimes even a feedback on how badly you might be screwing up your own work & life.
So, is it just that we are so busy that we really don't have time to be a sensitive person? Or is it that we pretend to be busy as a part of hiding away from the inevitable parts of our life because we want to be seen along only with success? Or is it that we have become so obsessed with success and goals so that we forget the small little things that (who knows) might make somebody's day?
I feel there is some food-for-thought in there!