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  • Wendy Lynch and Clydette de Groot

Conversation, interrupted

“I don’t have time to listen. My clients need action, and answers.”

We can all relate to this statement a consultant said to me recently. It’s a sign of our technologically-enhanced, over-committed environment. By some estimates, business professionals face as many as 1800 interactions per day – email, text, mail, calls, meetings, tweets, and reports. It’s overwhelming.

So to save time, it’s common to jump to conclusions, taking short-cuts to what --- we assume --- is the right answer.

Indeed, not listening has become the norm. So much so, studies estimate that doctors interrupt their patients within 18 seconds. Group business meetings average about 25 interruptions per hour. Sadly, one observational study found senior level executives interrupted their colleagues six times more often (more than once every two minutes) than junior level employees. This suggests that as we advance in our careers we become less, not more, effective listeners. Leaders apparently don’t have time.

The irony of ‘not having time’ now is the rework and clarification that will be required later, when we fix misunderstood objectives that we rushed into. Eventually someone will have to revisit what went wrong. Listening well at the beginning actually saves time and effort overall; it’s efficient and prevents waste. But it’s an investment we have to choose.

Not listening also has a different sort of cost: loss of trust and connection. Listening shows respect and signifies how much we value another person’s input. When we interrupt, disrupt, or dismiss what someone says, it does the opposite. Isn’t it worth a few minutes to build a relationship of mutual trust and respect, while also reaching a clear understanding of goals?

With the current pace of life and business it can be tempting to hurry. Any time I feel rushed and pressured to speed through an upcoming meeting, I try and set an intention that will help me slow down and listen for what really matters. I believe it pays off, in many ways.

If you want to take the time, we offer specific skills about how to listen effectively in Get to What Matters.

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