Listening Before Acting

There is a lot going on in the world today. I see a lot of activity and action, busy busy busy, move move move. But I wonder…with all of this action, are we listening before acting or is it just rushed reaction without knowledge? In times of stress, discord, and opposition, we should be listening to our internal compass, our human nature. This is a classic nature vs nurture battle and unfortunately, nurture is winning (what we have been taught, fed, or surrounded by). Now more than ever, we could and should be listening with intent which will open our eyes.

  • We should be listening with our heart. So we make good moral and ethical decisions, and are seeking to understand all points of view before we rush into action.
  • We should be listening with our head. So we make thoughtful and constructive decisions that will lead to impactful actions that make a difference, while staying safe and healthy.

Just acting (or reacting) without understanding and knowledge is not really action at all. Uneducated, rushed actions (or reactions) certainly don’t yield results, impact or change. Listening is the true weapon required right now to out think, out smart, and out navigate the problem in front of us… racism, injustice, and inequality. But this is also true for and applies to any challenge in our path, whether it be covid-19, unemployment, or education.

Today’s world is a rapid and fluid situation. Things are constantly changing and quickly. If we are acting or reacting without assessing the situation, we will just be caught up in the riptide, being whipped around in whichever direction the tide wants to take us. However, our ability to process and respond decisively and effectively is driven by our ability to assess the situation. Assessing means first understanding the situation from multiple angles or viewpoints. We cannot solve what we do not know or understand. Otherwise, we are just guessing. The most successful way to assess and respond is—quite simply—to listen.

How can we all listen to each other better?

  1. Hearing is NOT listening. If we are truly listening, we are paying attention, we are focused, and we are processing the information. 
  2. Ask great questions (not just good ones). Based on what we are listening to, we should probe, get deeper, and get more details to truly understand the problem or situation. 
  3. Understand the context behind what others are saying. Are they speaking from pain, past experience, thinking ahead, or something else?  This helps us align our thinking and ability to process the information.
  4. Discuss and debate. Expressing our thoughts and perspectives will lead to healthy discussion and debate. No answer, no solution, no result can come without objective challenges and conversations to evolve our thinking. 
  5. Review, reflect, repeat. After each conversation, we should reflect, synthesize and incorporate what we have learned from listening to others’ input. This will hone our thinking, giving it a sharp edge and making it a powerful weapon.

In summary, the quote “slow waters run deep” is very relevant. Power comes from having the depth obtained through listening. And this is how change will truly happen.