Are you Listening?

Are you Listening?

What happens to you when you are in need of support from your subordinates? What are the predictions you make before reaching out for that support? What happens to you when support comes to you although you had not asked for it?

If any of these is making you feel uncomfortable (read vulnerable/loaded), ask yourself what does ‘receiving’ mean and do to you? A key barrier to receiving is the fear that in receiving I am perceived to be ‘less than’, what I would like to be seen as. In our observation of people at work, this is a common barrier that contributes to stress and sub-optimal relationships. In fact one can almost hypothesize that receiving is more difficult than giving.

Another way of looking at this is the present day inordinate premium placed on masculinity and the virtually complete running down of femininity. This may seem counter intuitive in today’s political ambience where compensatory moves and declarations are occurring, purported to restore femininity to its rightful place. That belongs to the socio-political domain. The issue here I am raising is not in the socio-political domain but within the mind- the masculine and feminine within each one of us.

The difficulty in receiving is manifest in the competitiveness of who can be seen to be giving more. As such openness to new ideas, openness to diversity goes down leading to a greater and greater search for power. The consequences are obvious- in most relationships, the search is for the power to ‘fix the other’, while the declaration is, “let’s look for a win-win solution”.In my observation, this is one of the banes and invisible seeds of conflict and pathology in relationships and organizations.

In our observations when managers work in a group to solve a problem, this difficulty in receiving pushes the group into finding quick fix solutions and 'getting on with the task' at the cost of quality of the decisions. Differences tend to be glossed over, quick agreements are arrived at to which most of those who agreed do not subscribe. As a result, decisions are taken but commitment, adherence and alignment remain dubious.

At the individual level, the resistance to receiving arises from the strong need to be perceived as resourceful and a solution provider. In one to one relationships if either party is wedded to this mode, power inequity and struggle are inevitable, spiralling stress is therefore also inevitable.

At an organization level, I have been privy to seeing huge losses and waste because the superiors in the organization were not willing to receive information,insights as well as ideas which were waiting to travel upwards. In most workplaces upward flow of communication is well below required/healthy levels. We have seen examples where one corner of the organisation had found a solution which remained within that corner while the organisation chugging along with the old ways kept paying a sizable price.

Listening is involuntary, we can shut our eyes but not so with the ears. However we are capable of psychologically editing what reaches the ears. We all are selective listeners – but are gifted with the capability to widen the gateway. In the world of process work that widening leads to “listening with the third ear”.The catch is that this editing mechanism develops in our early years and does not change without conscious and deliberate efforts. This effort must needs be based on feedback. Are you open and listening? How much are you blocking out, and why?