Being on 'transmit,' not 'receive'

  • Published
  • By Col. Mark Teskey
  • ARPC Judge Advocate
Have you had a conversation with a co-worker or a boss lately that left you scratching your head because the lines of communication weren't working? Or participated in a staff meeting where there's a contentious issue being discussed? Step back and watch the dynamics if you can. You'll see folks who intently listen to the discussion and carefully consider their next input and try to make it meaningful. These individuals are on "receive." You'll also see those who are so busy thinking of what they're going to say next and are really not hearing a thing.

Those latter folks miss a lot because they're always on "transmit." They don't just miss the details, they often miss the entire point of the discussion. Questions go unanswered and the discussion doglegs left and hits a big old sand trap. We spend days and often weeks trying to get out of that trap. The entire conversation is frustrating to the recipient and those listening. Eventually, we all kind of tune these people out ... blah, blah, blah, blah. Lots of us spend more time thinking about what we're going to say than listening to the other person. Stop. Quit it. Give your voice a rest.

Listening, and I mean really comprehending what other folks have to say is important. Why? It shows others that you understand what's going on, it shows that you care, it shows that you value the other person, and it shows respect. It also simply prevents misunderstandings and fosters communication between individuals. Listening is leadership in action.

It's a whole lot of work to "receive" and understand. The best listeners give a fair amount of time and mental energy to fully understand the message directed at them. The best followers and leaders are the ones who listen first and then speak, armed with all the knowledge, intent and direction of the conversation. These are the people who make those around them feel valued and appreciated. Giving others the time to be heard and considering what they say encourages growth, confidence and new ideas. It also boosts morale and just plain makes things work better.

Listening is not just a skill, but is a necessity, particularly in this day and age of e-mail. Listening is also a crucial leadership attribute. The more we go electronic, the more we need to get out from behind our computers and exercise our verbal communications skills. I've never seen someone successfully lead from behind a computer screen and keyboard. Whether at work or at home, it's easy to hit the verbal or computer "send" button and "transmit." It's not easy to listen, really listen and "receive," and it takes time and effort to understand others. Spend some extra time and work at listening first.

Everyone around us has something to say. Be a leader, listen to them and understand what they say ... and then speak. This took up enough time; I'm getting out from behind this computer.