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Overcoming Listening Barriers in the Workplace: A Practical Guide



Vuslat Foundation



“Leaders who take organizational conversation seriously know when to stop talking and start listening,” assert Boris Groysberg and Michael Slind in their enlightening article titled “Leadership Is a Conversation.” So, what stands in the way of effective listening in leadership and workplace environments?

In a Harvard Business Review article, executive and leadership coaches Amy Jen Su and Muriel Wilkins outline four major barriers to listening in the workplace and provide valuable insights on overcoming them.

Barrier #1: Performance Anxiety
Nerves about performance can overshadow our ability to hear underlying concerns, questions, or feedback from our team. The focus shifts from the team to ourselves, hindering effective communication.

Solution: Learn to Ignore Your Inner Critic
Shift your focus from personal performance to the greater purpose of the meeting or presentation. What excites you about the topic or the audience?

Barrier #2: Limited Understanding of Role
Believing that listening is a critical part of your job is essential. If you’ve boxed yourself into a problem-solver and leader role, it may hinder your ability to be a contributing team member.

Solution: Expand How You See Your Role
Update your view of responsibilities from providing direction to offering counsel and trust. Listen deeply to clients’ and employees’ issues and concerns.

Barrier #3: Fear & Anticipation
Listening can shut down when we try too hard to anticipate what’s going to happen next, especially in difficult conversations where confrontation or conflict is expected.

Solution: Be Aware of Your Triggers
Notice when your listening shuts down in emotionally uncomfortable situations. Full attention is crucial in navigating difficult topics.

Barrier #4: Assertiveness & Over-confidence
Appearing overconfident can make it difficult for others to share their opinions.

Solution: Be Open to Having Your Mind Changed
Communicate your viewpoint while showing that you value the ideas and thoughts of your clients and colleagues. Demonstrate a willingness to consider new perspectives.

Breaking down these barriers is crucial for fostering effective communication, collaboration, and understanding in the workplace. Stay tuned for more insights on cultivating generous listening in professional settings.