Category Archives: Teams

True Listening

True listening changes everythingMost of us think we are good listeners. Research suggests the majority of people think they are above average at listening, which of course is not possible!

But if we are honest with ourselves, do we truly listen? Try this. Spend a day, or even a few hours, listening to people. Let their words in, without superimposing your own thoughts. When people talk, they are finding their way around in the dark, exploring what they really mean. The best way to help them explore what they mean is to listen without speaking. Allow yourself to take in what they say without wondering what their main point is. Trust that when they finish talking, you’ll understand. When you feel like finishing a sentence for them – out loud or even in your mind – stop yourself.

It can be amazing to hear what surprises come out of people’s mouths when you allow them to complete their thoughts without interruption. Sometimes you meet an entirely new person! You may realise that when you first got to know this person, what you were actually doing was just confirming your beliefs or expectations about who they were. For example, I worked with a client who believed her new coworker did not like her. Then one day, she listened and let him finish what he was trying to say without prompting or interruption. The co-worker was so relieved that he told her how much he enjoyed working with her.

Our understanding of others can limit what we think we already know. So when you truly listen, the person talking may not match your preconceptions. Then you may find you meet someone much wiser or kinder than you expected.

When we truly listen we lose track of our ideas about who we think people are. We become a true listener when we are genuinely interested; when we open up and shut up (the inner chatter). True listening makes it easier to be truly interested – as a true listener you realise that people have more to offer than you expected.

You may feel disoriented at first, because we all work quite hard to uphold our ideas of who we think we are and other people are. But keep going, because our ideas get in the way of true listening. And maybe, when you truly listen, you will find that you are much wiser and kinder than you realised.


Nip it in the bud

In our mediation practice, we have noticed an increase in the number of people who believe they have been bullied. Frequently, allegations of bullying or harassment will be met by a counterclaim of similar behavior. Both parties may genuinely believe that they are victims of each other, regardless of their relative status within the organisation.Continue Reading


The high cost of workplace stress

Sustained stress creates an unsustainable workplace. High levels of stress lead to conflict for several reasons: People try to escape from the reality of a stressful workplace by focusing their energies on their enemy—whether that person be a colleague or a manager. When people are snapped at they’ll snap at others. Stressed team members areContinue Reading


When my colleague is in pain

When introverts experience emotional pain, they often wall themselves off from others. They would rather be left alone, to work through their pain in private. It’s essential to their healing. In the workplace, however, such behaviour can be seen as disengagement or disinterest. People who are in pain may not interact as freely with theirContinue Reading


The artist and the cynic

Peter Sculthorpe, the Australian composer whose work celebrated Australia’s indigenous culture and evoked the mystery and grandeur of the outback, died earlier this month. He was 85—and began writing music at the age of seven. How did his piano teacher react when she found out? You might think that she would have been excited. AndContinue Reading


The vexed question of leadership

A recent survey by the Centre for Workplace Leadership, a research institute based at the University of Melbourne, reveals that three out of every four Australian workers are dissatisfied with their managers. They agreed that our workplaces need better management and leadership. Ironically, three out of four workers also believe that they possess the skillsContinue Reading


Five cognitive distortions: Schumpeterianism

This is the fifth in a series of blog posts looking at five cognitive distortions of high achievers. Today, our topic is Schumpeterianism, better understood as the principal of creative destruction. Popularised by the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter (1883 – 1950), it states that the old must be destroyed to make way for the new. Of course, this idea itselfContinue Reading


Five cognitive distortions: blank-canvas thinking

This is the fourth in a series of blog posts looking at five cognitive distortions of high achievers. Today, our topic is blank-canvas thinking. A blank canvas offers us infinite possibilities, with minimal constraints. Blank-canvas thinkers are always searching for ideas without precedents; they’re the first to throw the Style Manual out the window. In many ways, this isContinue Reading


Five cognitive distortions: correct overgeneralisation

This is the third in a series of blog posts looking at five cognitive distortions of high achievers. Today, we’re looking at correct overgeneralisation. Michael Dearing defines this as making universal judgements from limited observations. In other words, basing critical decisions on scant data. Sounds like something many of us do–but Dearing adds this kicker: and beingContinue Reading


Five cognitive distortions: dichotomous thinking

This is the second in a series of blog posts looking at five cognitive distortions of high achievers. Today, we’re looking at dichotomous thinking—or, to put it more simply, black and white thinking. This distortion manifests in several different ways. Dichotomous thinkers are both judgemental and opinionated to a high degree. They see only blackContinue Reading