The Power of Being Heard

Lessons we can learn from the Middle East

To promote peace in the Middle East many organisations have been involved in the bringing together of Israelis and Palestinians to foster understanding of the two nationalities. A common approach used has been to provide an opportunity for the Israelis and the Palestinians to share stories about their lives with each other.

The sharing of experiences has been the focus of a piece of research, recently published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. The findings of the research show that the benefits from exchange are much greater when members of the less empowered group share their stories with the traditionally dominant group than when the reverse occurs. The biggest barrier to reconciliation is the belief that the concerns of the disempowered group are being ignored.

This recent research supports evidence from previous studies which have indicated that less empowered groups benefited greater more from perspective giving rather than perspective giving.

So why in many organisations today, do managers insist on “Sharing their vision” and do not give time to listen to the perspectives or stories of their staff first? Is there any wonder that we have low staff morale, conflict and cultures of “Them” and “Us”.

In the current global economic conditions it is easy to understand why senior managers have taken away autonomy and are less inclined to empower their teams, in uncertain times we tend to revert to the “belt and braces mentality” and a “control and command” culture. The impact of this approach can be that staff feel they are being treated unfairly, they have lost their voice, they opinions are not valued and generally frustration sets in and if allowed to continue a “Them” and “Us” culture can quickly develop causing lack of trust and loss of goodwill within the team.

Learning to be a good listener can make a difference, unfortunately many managers believe that they are good listeners, but it is a skill which should not just be taken as a “given”. Listening is a skill which most of us need to practice.

Top tips to being a Good Listener

  • Keep the other person(s) your whole focus of attention
  • Stay quiet whilst the other person(s) is talking
  • Give the other person(s) time and space to talk
  • Reduce the volume of your internal voice
  • Interrupting can suggest a lack of respect
  • Show you are listening through your body language and facial expressions
  • Notice when the other person’s body language and facial expressions appear to be at odds with their words
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