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September 11, 2012

How Well Are We Listening? What We Can Learn from Social Media

Many of us probably don’t want to admit it, but the fast and furious social media takeover has called attention to how much (or how little) listening we’ve been doing.

This ubiquitous digital uprising has forced even the most self-aware and proactive in our ranks to step back and reflect on our communication habits. Don’t get me wrong; many of us were already sensitive to the collective consumer, employee or communal voices around us well before social media came along. But when it did, we were again reminded of how active a role the seemingly passive art of listening plays in the overall communication paradigm. And even more pronounced than the effects of listening are the effects of not listening.

I should offer a disclaimer right now that this post is neither a giant endorsement of nor diatribe against social media, so please bear with me. It’s more about how the various networks out there have provided leaders with a perfect microcosm from which to learn and grow as communicators. In particular, these networks have highlighted a few distinct and far-reaching lessons: 

  1. You’re not speaking in a vacuum—even if it sometimes feels that way. And it will feel that way, if you’re not inspiring or facilitating dialogue.
  2. Interesting and engaging content is still king. Passion, emotion, insight, observations, relevance, intrigue, details… these are the core components of storytelling, and storytelling is the basis of winning communication. No matter what the vehicle.
  3. Communication takes shape in the form of dialogues, not monologues. Those who do well in the social media sphere are generally those who engage with their networks rather than talk at them. This is also true of employees and the world at large.
  4. Conversations are inevitable, so get involved. As I frequently say, you are always communicating… even when you’re not communicating. So why not do so thoughtfully and purposefully?
  5. If everybody’s talking and nobody’s listening, all you’ve got is a lot of noise. The easiest way to lower the volume is to talk a little less and listen a little more.

Which of the lessons above could have the most positive impact on how you lead and communicate?

-- David Grossman         


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