Who is worth listening to?

A few years ago, I read an article that really stuck with me. I can’t find it again now, but let me paraphrase and share with you the part that stood out.

What is the impact of listening?

A group of researchers did a test. They gave two groups of people the same information to present to an audience who would be judging their presentation.

For the first group of presenters, they advised the audience to listen: to be very engaged, attentive, responsive, and to smile and ask questions.

For the second group of listeners, they advised the audience not to listen: To act distracted, bored, to not engage at all, and to not pay attention or ask questions.

Then they asked both groups of presenters to share a word that described how they felt.

Listened to

The group who was listened to listed words like:


Not listened to

The group of people who were not listened to listed words like:

Shut down

For years, I have not been able to forget about this article.

Who deserves to be listened to?

Over the years, I have encountered many executives and managers who were getting feedback that they were not good listeners, and when I asked them about it, they would give me an answer along the lines of:

“When I respect someone and know they will have good ideas, I am willing to invest time to listen. But when I know the person will not add any value it’s not worth my time to listen to them.”

Albeit a little arrogant, this seems a perfectly logical and practical strategy for the busy executive.

The only flaw in this practical plan is that they are leaving a population in their organization feeling sad, depressed, stupid, worthless, angry, and shut down.

Then the executive will often express frustration to me about employee engagement!

Make everyone feel listened-to

Instead of prejudging who is worth listening to and who is not, why not change the goal to be: Make everyone feel listened to?

You don’t have to act on every piece of information you hear to make people feel listened to, you just need to listen!

If you simply make the effort to make the people in your organization feel listened to, the will definitely be more engaged, they’ll feel more trusted and valued — and you might get some ideas that surprise you that you’d otherwise miss.

Pre-judging who to listen to is a bad strategy.

If you make the goal “make everyone feel listened-to” instead of only listening to people who you have decided are worth listening to, you will create a lot of positive momentum in your organization.

Even if it all the input is not valuable, what IS valuable is making your team feel like they are worthwhile.

The extra engagement and insights you will get along the way will save you more time that it will cost you. I promise.

See also, The hidden (and most valuable) information in every organization.

What do you think?

Join the conversation about this on my Facebook page Patty Azzarello Practical Business Advice for Humans.

You can find Patty at www.AzzarelloGroup.com, follow her on twitter or Facebook, or read her books RISE and MOVE.

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