I was in class 4, when I had run back home from the playground and posed a question before my father. I remember the entire conversation because I thought I had spoken like a grown up. I remember posing a contemplating-big-girl expression on my face. It went something like this:
I- Can I ask you something?
Dad- Yes bête. Ask me.
I- Ok. It’s a big doubt. I have been thinking about something. I always wanted to ask someone about it, but didn’t know whom to go to. I am going to ask you. ( I made it seem like he was the lucky chosen one to be blessed with some key to a hidden treasure!)
Dad- Ohh! You have to tell me. What is it?
I- My friends were discussing ducktales today. It’s a cartoon show. Sindhu had so much to say. I did nothing but nod my head. Is that ok? Is it ok not to talk when others have so much to say? Is it alright to be, just a listener?
My mother had made sure not to have a television at home till I was 12 and no cable connection till I was 15 (Thanks Ma). So, poor me had no clue what the famous cartoon was all about.
Dad- Conversation is not just about talking. It equally involves listening. You have done nothing wrong. It’s ok.
That was my first lesson in the art of listening. Many a times, in the midst of a conversation, I realize that I have nothing much to contribute. Yes. I do get uncomfortable. I am human after all! Yet, I constantly tell myself in such situations, “Ishma, just listen. You’ll learn.” Listening is the easiest means of learning. All you have to do is listen!
As kids, we are sent to school for years, to learn to read and write. Some of us take communication classes to hone our speaking skills. But what about the fourth element-listening?
A leaders’ success is asserted upon their ability to listen and understand others’ viewpoint. Stepping into the shoes of another individual is a prerequisite to empathetically understanding them. Listening, also builds a bond of mutual respect. Listening is also a process of growing as an effective leader. Yes, leadership includes traits and behaviors, but effective leaders are always educating themselves in new ways of doing things and adjusting their leadership capacity by learning from others. By listening, a leader even opens himself to feedback, which is a prerequisite for his effective growth.
The current BSY pandemonium creates a little rumpus in my own living room every night at eight, when my father enthusiastically partakes in the political debate being telecast on television. My father insists I watch the debate with him. As I unwillingly sit through the show (often in pure Kannada, which I fail to interpret), his loudly animated, “Ahh! Well said, well said!!” and “Ha! Just look at his expression!” scare the wits out me and leave me praying for the clock to hit half past eight, so that I can leave the room. I give in to his demands due to two reasons. Firstly, I don’t wish to hurt my dads’ sentiments. Secondly (and more importantly), I believe I am a sucker for information. Since I couldn’t follow the language specifically, I was busy observing other things. What caught my eye was that the delegator of the debate was literally deaf! The opponent would have barely spoken 3 to 4 words, when this talented Mr. Delegator would butt in with his own interpretation of the incomplete sentence, leading to greater confusion!
I thought, “How can you lead, when you don’t understand? How can you understand, when you don’t care? How can you care, when you don’t listen??”
Any insights, friends?