three chimpanzees having a meetingEveryone has amazing insight.

It’s true. At some point, on some topic, almost everyone will have a moment of clarity worth sharing.

The challenge, at least as it relates to productive dialogue, is that many of us believe the frequency and scope of the insight we possess to be so grand as to warrant the lion’s share of attention in any given room.

But when was the last time any of us was engaged in an interaction — profound or not — where the objective of everyone in the room was to listen, intent on learning?

If you’ve been in that kind of room it probably left a mark. There is dynamism there. When gaining (versus sharing) insight is the goal, ideas flow easier. Solutions serm to emerge more quickly. But listening rooms are scarce. After all, territory must be staked. Turf marked.

An Idea

Pick the most stressful or contentious interaction you’ll face in coming days. What would change if the objective of everyone involved was to listen? No agendas. No winners or losers.

There are plenty of reasons not to go down this road. Where’s the practicality? Someone has to lead. And besides, I’m expected to come to the table with a point-of-view, experience and expertise.

But what might happen if I were to become a point of listening?

If you want to introduce a rare dynamic into difficult conversations, try making a point of listening rather than worrying about sharing your point of view. Unless you’re in unusual company, no one really hears — or gets — your point of view anyway. Not because it isn’t brilliant; but because while you’re talking we’re only half-listening as we formulate what we’ll say next.

(Double down on the above paragraph if the objective of the one doing most of the talking is to convince, convert, defend or defame.)

And if the fear is that listening displays weakness or affords unfair advantage to another’s point of view, consider the possibility that there’s not much listening going on in a room where the primary concern is winning.

Real listening is an intentional and difficult act. It stems from a commitment to learn, and a relentless search for a bridge that connects us…even over enormous chasms.

When I believe my insight is ultimate, and that the room is best served when I broadcast my point of view, I should not be surprised when the only ones paying attention are those who share my view…and nothing changes.

There is rarely a shortage of talk. But when the talk accomplishes little, there may be a shortage of intentional listening.

In relationships with family, co-workers, friend or foe, maybe the key to the change and progress we seek lies in having the courage and discipline to listen…to find the elements necessary to build a bridge to the next conversation.