Being Heard – The Power of Acknowledgment

It might seem trivial, but one of the key learnings from my time as a scrum master is that people long to be heard. Being understood by someone else, validates the speaker. Listening says “I care. I take time and pay attention to you. You are important! Your take on things is valuable.”

Many methods for meeting facilitation also achieve that (i.e. acknowledge people’s input): Writing things down on the flipchart, paraphrasing, summarising, clarifying, …

Take every oppurtunity to listen:

  • Lift up a colleague by lending an open ear to hear what they fret about.
  • If you’ve got direct reports, schedule regular one-on-ones with them.
  • In a negotiation, take the heat out of a discussion by summarising someone else’s position, thus demonstrating that they’ve been heard.
    Recently, I found this snippet in “Getting to Yes” (a book about negotiating):”[…] the cheapest concession you can make to the other side is to let them know that they have been heard.”

    Many people will only try to understand you, after they are sure that you’ve understood them. (Please note that understanding does not imply agreeing. I understand a wide variety of points of view, but only agree with a handful.)

Depending on your role, people might expect you to act on what they tell you, not “just” listen, but that’s a story for another day. Listening comes first.

PS: Want to hone your listening skills? There’s an app a TEDTalk for that!