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3rd Nov 2017
3 Min Read

The power of active listening

Rachel Thornton
Rachel Thornton
IC & Engagement

In today’s world of instant communication – overloaded email inboxes; stories condensed to headlines and tweets; news, views and reviews from all directions – it’s all too easy to be a passive consumer of information. We consume but rarely absorb information. We’re quickly distracted by the next notification or juicy morsal in our digital timelines.

So internal communications teams face a challenge: helping colleagues find the time to not just read the necessary information, but to really process and make sense of what they are reading. We have a wealth of channels at our disposal including intranets, apps, print, video and audio. However if your message is going to land with maximum impact, it’s essential to have a clear picture of all of the information sources your audience are plugged into, and plan communications strategically to ensure your messages cut through this noise.

It’s all about giving them the space employees need to really listen.

In the Mandarin language, the symbol for ‘listen’ is made up of five individual characters:

  • Ears – obviously! What you use to hear information
  • Eyes – observing as if you had ten eyes (this is also the symbol for ten)
  • Mind – to process, understand and interpret information
  • Focus – undivided attention without distraction
  • Heart – caring and understanding the emotions involved

It’s been analysed by many management consultants and relationship bloggers before, but as internal communicators it teaches us that listening is an active process. It takes time, effort and attention to listen well. Without this, it’s more than likely that messages will be heard but quickly forgotten. To make a true difference, internal communications need to be thoughtfully timed interventions that disrupt the days of your audience allowing them the space to complete all five of these stages of active listening.

We love listening to our clients describing the challenges they face in their organisation and often wonder how many of these challenges are a direct result of the things getting in the way of employees being able to actively listen. We believe that removing distractions and giving colleagues time is an essential consideration of any communications campaign.

Directly translating the symbol, it reads “I give you my ears, my eyes, my undivided attention and my heart”: a mantra we couldn’t agree with more!

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