True Empathetic Listening

One of the hardest things to do is listen – really listen – to another person. Instead of being fully present as they explain, complain or share, our minds are busy planning what we’ll say next. Even at our most altruistic, we’re contemplating what to say that will help. Parker Palmer of the Center for Courage & Renewal suggests that this response is ego driven and not empathetic. We’re more focused on how we can save the day than we are on being there for someone in need.

Empathetic listening is in a constant battle with our short attention spans and our belief that the more we speak, the better we must be. As Valerie Brown points out in her blog for the center, western culture rewards fast-talking, think-on-your feet behavior, while listening for genuine connection requires so much of us.

Empathetic listening requires emotional intelligence. To do it well, push aside your own need to win, fix others or one-up them. Listen without judgment.

How to Listen Mindfully

Empathetic listening is important but difficult. As a leader, the difficulties are magnified, but so is the importance of putting ego aside to genuinely connect with others. Often times, leaders believe they must have all the answers or that their primary role is to fix problems rather than be a trusted ear.

Valerie Brown, a leadership coach and facilitator for Courage and Renewal offers several tips that will sharpen your empathetic listening skills. Avoid judgment. Instead, work to understand the other person’s perspective and accept it for what it is rather than disagree with it.   Avoid giving advice. Problem solving will likely to be more effective once both parties understand each other’s perspectives and feel heard.

Mindfully observe when you tune out or become distracted; what giving someone your undivided attention feels like; what happens when you interrupt and when you don’t; what happens when you let go of your agenda and focus on being present.

Fitness Workstation Findings

A recent Clemson University study concluded that performing light physical activity while working can improve performance and cognitive response.

June Pilcher and Victoria Baker studied 38 students as they worked and pedaled slowly on stationary bikes equipped with desktop stations. They found that motivation and morale improved, and that there were no detrimental affects from combining work and fitness.

The results of this study suggest that activity workstations in the workplace and in educational settings help decrease sedentary behavior with no negative impact on performance. Pilcher noted that the positive affect could mean improved problem solving, decision-making, responsibility and creativity – all important implications for the workplace.

Click here for more information on the study.