Listening to understand, rather than listening only to respond, requires a high level of mindfulness and consciousness, especially when we are communicating with people of different cultures.
As I was facilitating a program in Asia last month this thought came to the forefront. I observed the consequences of when people know that they are not being heard. Given that there were several cultures represented in the room, there was an increased need for effective communication, which unfortunately wasn’t delivered as well as it could have been. The result was a group who clearly felt disrespected, frustrated and placed little value and trust in what was being said to them. I observed this through their responses – or lack of at times, their body language and the overall disengaged atmosphere that pervaded the workshop by the end of day one.
It is only as we listen to understand that we can observe the cultural nuances and cues that can make for a greater level of understanding and more effective communication. In order for this to occur our emotional and cultural intelligence needs to be heightened. Different usage of words, accents and body language all make for complexity when communicating with individuals whose native language is different to the one being spoken. Effective listening provides an ability to empathise and be more attuned to the other party’s situations and requirements.
Whether you are negotiating, procuring, selling, off-shoring or outsourcing, across borders and cultures you need to listen with the objective to understand if you want to:
- Influence relationships
- Gather information
- Understand what is not being spoken
- Influence, persuade and negotiate