Listening as a Practice: Listening is where love begins

You may have noticed that our home page borrows a sentiment expressed by Fred Rogers: “Listening is where love begins: listening to ourselves and then to our neighbors.” And yes, neighbors, Fred Rogers is Mr. Rogers of PBS television fame.

While the word love may make some people uncomfortable, especially in the workplace, it absolutely holds true. You might say listening to someone is respectful, empathetic, empowering or any of a number of descriptors, but love is a useful and simplifying shorthand for all of them. And you cannot serve others (or yourself) without listening. 

Mr. Rogers' full quote points out that we need to listen to ourselves as well as others, and this point is worth mentioning as we launch this web site. It is often easy to notice when others are (or aren't) listening, but it's not so easy to see when we are the ones with the listening deficit. This point is fundamental to approaching listening as an practice that takes ongoing effort and repetitions to become skilled.

With that, we'll leave you with one more quote on listening from Mr. Rogers: 

"In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.” 
― Fred Rogers, The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember

Listening Leadership: Shirley Ann Jackson

In yesterday's Corner Office interview in the New York Times, Shirley Ann Jackson, president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, said some remarkable things. To paraphrase, she said no one is the fount of all knowledge and that it is important to listen carefully. You may think this advice is common sense, but such honesty is too rare when it comes to people in leadership positions, who often succumb to the pressure that they must know all, know better, and do so at all times. 

As advocates for the importance of listening, we were especially impressed with Ms. Jackson's answer to the the question "What advice do you often give when you’re coaching managers?" She said:

"It’s important to listen carefully, because it helps you understand the other person, and you cannot expect to really reach them if you do not understand. Listening can also help you make better decisions because nobody is the fount of all knowledge.

The second is empathy. The world is complex, and people come from various backgrounds. I have my own sensitivities based on how I grew up. Sometimes I let them get the better of me, but I learned an important lesson early on."

This is great advice that benefits all of us, no matter our role.

You can read the full interview here: Link to NYT article