Listen – Understand – Act

Today the cold front in NZ made a lot of people stay home and work remotely. I’m one of them. This proved to be an amazing opportunity. Instead of having the usual ‘busy’ day with scheduled meetings and interruptions I could concentrate on a number of things and got them done a lot earlier.


This also gave me the freedom to listen to a TED talk by Julian Treasure about 5 ways to listen better. Julian’s list includes the obvious as well as the new. The latter ones being a transformation of visual patterns and problem solving approaches.

  1. Silence
    being silent is hard for some and sometimes for me, too. “I know something important to what is said. Actually, I think what is said is incorrect, let me voice my opinion!” Sounds familiar? That’s where silence comes in. Listen consciously creates understanding. Thinking about what and how you want to respond doesn’t include listening to what is said. Silence is not just being silent, it means listening.
  2. Identifying
    This is a brilliant exercise. Listen to a sound bit mixed with different elements. For example it could include the voices of 7 different colleagues. Can you identify who is speaking? Now, that was easy 🙂 What did they actually say? This could be as simple as recording your colleagues on a familiar topic.
  3. Savouring
    Do you have a sound that like because it reminds of something beautiful, interesting, challenging, nice, etc? For example, rain drops on the roof.
  4. Positioning
    Listening can be a challenge in circumstances. A noisy environment makes it a lot harder to concentrate. Volume, pitch, tone are factors. What about seeing the person you are listening to or closing your eyes.
  5. RASA
    The acronym stands for “Receive” – “Appreciate” – “Summarise” – “Ask“. This hardly needs an explanation. But ask yourself, how often do you violate those simple rules of active listening? And how often do you wish the person listening to you would follow them? Right, too often.


Now while listening is important, listening consciously creates understanding. The article by Thomas L. Friedman in the NY times “The day our leaders got unstuck” is a brilliant example how two opposing parties can indeed work together. There are excellent examples of publicly acknowledging mistakes like “But I have to acknowledge that, over the years, our party has contributed to this debt burden and government spending binge.” in that article. Whilst in typical leadership speech there’s alway some else to blame – at least a bit: “Any fair-minded person who looks at all the stimulus investments I’ve made in education, clean energy, research and infrastructure can see that this has been my goal from the start.


Now we have active listening and understanding of historical considerations and the other parties position. Great. There is a promise in there, we will act on this. Keep the promise and make it happen. Having great words and acknowledging the other position and opinion is one thing, doing the right thing from there is a totally different step.

Act on what you have promised. Write down what was said (summarise) and make an action checklist.



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