Learning to Listen

“The biggest communication problem, is we do not listen to understand, we listen to reply”

Iffet Burton, from our second Open Programme cohort, shares how her understanding of listening was transformed as a result of her She Leads Change experience.

“Deep listening is where you focus on the person in front of you: you do not speak, you try to stay out of your own head and really hear the words/emotions/expressions of the speaker.”

About, three weeks into the She Leads Change Open Programme, I began to grasp how to listen, yet a year later, I’d sometimes reflect on conversations, and realise I was away in my head and not really listening…then felt upset at having left someone feeling less special than they deserve.  We like to be listened to…

I have always listened and as a Teacher, my students were annoyed with my ability to be across the room talking to one person and pick up their conversation at the other end (just like most parents can) – they were, of course, off topic and I would let them know they needed to stop.  What I did not realise, is that I learnt a habit of looking like I was distracted when listening to others. 

When I first started in Pearson this habit was noted, and some of my peers felt I did not listen when they spoke to me.  I could not understand why as I always gave the correct responses and actioned everything.  It took my going on the She Leads Change Open course to learn about the skill of deep listening to understand why.

So here’s a partial ‘I’m sorry’ to those who thought I was not listening to them.  

I try very hard now, to stay in focus on what is being said to me and I get a better response.  I also remember not to multi-task when someone is asking for my help, I have learnt to say: please give me a moment, finish my task and go and give them my undivided attention.

It can be part of the issue with remote working, that some people feel they are marginalised and not heard or able to participate in discussions.  I read a document written by the Pearson Senior HR Manager, Kevin Lyons who publishes on GroSum which points to this situation.   

So next time you are tempted to type whilst on the phone, or type while answering a question to a colleague, consider if you left them feeling they knew the answer and had been heard, or would they leave and find someone else, not entirely sure you knew what they asked or discussed?


Our Spring 2020 Open Programme starts on 18th February.

The three month peer mentoring programme helps women better manage their internal narratives, successfully navigate personal and professional relationships and lead from a place of confidence.

We would love to have you join us. Apply now or get in touch with Laura if you have any questions.

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