Listening Is The Action Item

Sometimes doing nothing is all that needs to be done.

A Lesson Learned

In all my years of Human Resources I have found that sometimes doing nothing is the best way forward. Oftentimes we hear people’s problems and want to do something to fix it and relieve that person of their burden. However, I have had to learn that sometimes all a person needs is to talk an issue out. They just need someone to listen. There’s something about releasing words that helps you think through them.

Human Need

Harriet Cabelly, for, puts it so well when she writes,

“As human beings, our visceral need is to feel held, with words, rather than to receive solutions. When we get the space and understanding we need, we can usually come to our own answers. And if not, there’s always time to brainstorm for possible solutions.”

When something is bothering you, especially work related, it just makes you feel better once someone else is in the loop. Being a sounding board for the entire team is a crucial function of Human Resources. In my mind, that’s one of the best ways an HR department can support team members.

A Cause To Get Behind

Benjamin Mathes believes so much in the power of listening, he founded a volunteer project to provide listening to the masses, Urban Confessional.

“Every time you share something, whether it’s good news or bad news, and someone takes the time to hear it, it kind of makes you feel complete,” Mathes said.

The Basics of Listening

If you’re interested in understanding how to be a great listener, I highly suggest reading Mark Shrayber’s interview with Vanessa Marin, a licensed psychotherapist.

“I think a lot of us have that natural reaction to want to jump into problem-solver mode, especially when it’s somebody that you really care about,” Marin continues. “You don’t want to see them hurting, or dealing with something difficult, so a great question that you can ask is, ‘what do you need from me around this, do you need to just talk about it? Do you want me to help you brainstorm some solutions? Do you want me to take the lead and do something?’”

Clarify What’s Next

Asking questions about next steps bridges the gap between listening and expectations of what comes next. In most cases (with exceptions such as cases of sexual harassment, or if someone is in danger), it’s ok if listening was the only action item, but it’s important to identify what the team member would like to see happen next.

What It All Comes Down To

It all comes down to creating human connections. We spend hours each day with the same group of people. By listening, really listening to each other, we can create a supportive and collaborative environment.