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Are you really listening or do you have an agenda?

I attended an “Evening with Annie Leibovitz” the iconic photographer. She shared stories about her latest book and her perspectives on celebrities, society and the changes she witnessed in her 50 years behind the camera. Despite her fame and influence, she was modest, moving and frank in her comments and responses to questions.

I was struck by how different she was from my expectations. And I wondered how this was impacting my quality of listening. And I noticed how the interviewer seemed to have her own view of how Annie should respond to her questions. So much so, that at times she seemed to dismiss or talk over Annie and to mould her response into what it should have been based on her own views.

This was a valuable experience for me as it helped me to reflect on what can go on in the office. The late Judith E. Glaser wrote about trust, neuroscience and creative collaboration. In her book “Conversational Intelligence” she describes the adjustments we can make to change the neurochemicals that affect our brain. These neurochemicals enable and disable our listening to others and our understanding of their meaning.

Judith spoke of approaching a conversation by being ‘open to influence’. At first, coming from the world of financial services where I was trained to have a view and argue my case against my colleagues, I thought that this was a weak position. Now I have an appreciation of how being open to influence means that I can listen with greater curiosity. I can pay attention more to what the other person is saying, than to only what confirms my position. And I can let go of rehearsing in my head what would be a clever response. I can also value the perspectives of people with different lived experiences and incorporate them into how I make sense of the world.

What improves the quality of your listening?

Are you open to influence?

If you find that your relationships with your team members or direct reports are negatively impacted by the quality of your or their listening contact me on or call +44 (0) 7952 068133.


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