We listen up, we listen in, we hear each other out, we sound each other out, we monitor the channels and we interview, poll, and workshop to gather input. The most immediate form of communication we share is the voice. When we are in direct communication with others, especially one-on-one, ideas flow with the least amount of self-judgement. We say what’s on our mind. Editing is spontaneous, if it occurs at all. As listeners, we frequently get our best input this way.
The “perfect” memo or survey, on the other hand, has been written and re-written, vetted out by the communications team, checked over by legal, and sometimes HR has had a look in to make sure that no one will take it the wrong way. Then, all clean and shiny (and sterile) it goes out for people to react to.
Those of us who are blessed with the abilities to speak and hear don’t always remember the value of those skills. Sound waves move through the air and then are gone. We have the one opportunity to catch them, interpret them, and then react to them. Or to choose to not react to them. We seek out opportunities to speak to the higher-ups, but how many opportunities do we make to speak to peers, co-workers, and the shop floor?
The physics of sound is about vibration. A source (our vocal chords) creates vibrations of various sizes and shapes and those sound waves travel through the air, competing with other sounds to reach a destination (the ear drum). The waves are turned into electrical impulses in the brain, connecting the sound to meaning. It’s quite amazing, really. Both ends of the process are phenomenal.
We are exposed to innumerable bits and bytes of information each day. Much of it is recorded or written for consumption at any time. I can check my Google Reader when I have time. But that’s collecting information, not interacting. It’s light reflected off a page or a screen, not sound. Podcasts and voicemail are sound, but not interactive.
Are you aware of how much of your day is spent in “real time” listening and interacting? It’s probably the most valuable part of your day, if you are choosing to listen to people. If you don’t listen, don’t take the time to listen, then what’s the point?