Madeleine Albright, politician and diplomat; former and first female U.S. Secretary of State, said in her Commencement Speech at Scripps College:
We are not going to have the kind of cooperation we need if everyone insists on their own narrow version of reality. To me this is the great divide in the world today — not between liberal and conservative, rich and poor, or between any one race or creed and all the others — it is between people who have the courage to listen and those who are convinced that they already know it all.
‘Being convinced that we know it all’. It may be not as strict as this but we all do some filtering in the listening because, perhaps, we dismiss the potential value. We know, if not all, quite a lot.
But it may be a more subtle reason for not listening well. It’s all back to critical thinking. If I only hear what I want to hear, and listen to what I want to listen, I will end up having the conclusions that I already have. And this is safe! There is a term for this: confirmation bias.
Not listening is not always an arrogant attitude. It’s sometimes a way to avoid confrontation with a possible path that does not lead us to the conclusions we have in the oven.
As many other things, such as leadership, listening is a praxis. It gets better when practiced. And that includes listening to potential waste, to discomfort as well as comfort, to structured thinking as well as disjointed. Yes, there is always a price to pay. Not listening is easier and cheap, no doubt.
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