Listening > Hearing

For a hypochondriac, it’s bizarre to get good news from a doctor about one thing, when you’re at the doctor for a different thing. Such was the case a few months ago when I thought I had my fourth ear infection in as many months. After a barrage of tests — including a hearing exam — I came to not only find I was sans ear infection, but I evidently have “impeccable hearing.”

For someone who spent 20+ years in rock bands, this was fascinating news. And while it didn’t solve my health issue, it left me with a thought: hearing is only a physiological process; listening is what’s important.

Once, I had a particularly unfortunate nonprofit manager who said a lot of things — let’s call this manager “Don.” Those things varied in scale from inconsequential to flat out offensive. When someone would disagree, Don would famously say, “you’re not hearing me.” To be fair, while we may have been hearing Don, very few of us were interested in actually listening.

A little chart about shenanigans

When I play the experiences back in my mind, I realize a pretty common nonprofit thing was happening. Rather than listening to the staff, Don simply waited for breaks in conversation to interject his point. Often, those points flew in the face of good practices, ethically and otherwise.

At the time, our team had decades of great experience, and was really skilled in our respective areas. Don, on the other hand, was not, and so many of his interjections were things we couldn’t (or shouldn’t) do. When someone manages with this lack of reality-based understanding, I believe it shows a major listening deficiency. [I talk a bit about that, here]

The takeaway? Just remember what acclaimed rock band Jimmy Eat World has to say on the subject: “Are you listening? Woaaaaaaaaaaah.”

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