Changing how we think about great listeners

There was something about definitions of great listeners that I’d heard in the past that didn’t feel right to me. And, after a few attempts at attempting to synthesize my point of view, I gave up.

A share from a colleague that I came across yesterday renewed my interest in the topic again. She shared this quote from an HBR article on great listeners – “While many of us have thought of being a good listener being like a sponge that accurately absorbs what the other person is saying, instead, what these findings show is that good listeners are like trampolines. They are someone you can bounce ideas off of — and rather than absorbing your ideas and energy, they amplify, energize, and clarify your thinking.”

The full article is here and has more interesting detail. However, I think the above quote captures the essence of the post. And, as I was reflecting on it, I realized the source of the disconnect.

First, I’ve never thought of myself as a sponge. So, on occasion when I was described as a good listener (emphasis on “on occasion” – it isn’t a regular event :-)), I couldn’t quite understand why the person at the other end described me in a way that was inconsistent with my self image.

And, second, I find sponges frustrating to speak to. I don’t care about being interrupted as long as the discussion is energizing. The best discussions in my mind are often riffs that involve building off each other’s best ideas and energy to create something better than either could have imagined.

This articulation of what good listeners do has helped bridged the gap between these disconnects. It is going to inspire more thinking (and writing hopefully) in the coming days.

For now, it is safe to say that it has shifted my perspective on how I think about being a good listener.