Written by Catherine Reheis-Boyd, WSPA President
It’s no secret that there is a lot to think about in our lives today. Between ongoing COVID realities and some incredibly powerful social movements underway, it’s easy to find ourselves overwhelmed – and sometimes even uninformed – on all that’s happening around us. That’s why I believe the conscious act of listening – and learning – is more important now than ever.
Today we celebrate World Listening Day, an honorary day of recognition that promotes the importance of listening, growth and reflection. While some might wisely say that we should focus every day on continuous listening and learning, moments in time like this provide us all with the opportunity to remember the importance of listening, often times to opposing points of view, to grow as leaders, professionals, family members and, most importantly, humans.
Taking the time to truly listen and educate ourselves on the important issues surrounding ourselves – and our communities – is an incredible first step to personal and professional growth. Today I am using this opportunity to think about the areas of my personal and professional life where I can engage more to be better informed and a more collaborative leader.
Some of my most memorable career achievements have stemmed from listening to opinions and points of view that were different than mine. On several examples I’ve found that listening to opposing viewpoints and understanding different perspectives can drive empathy, and in turn allow you to better articulate your point of view or derive the facts and arguments needed to be a more effective communicator.
The oil & gas industry is no stranger to opposing views. Over the years I’ve found the most effective conversations and planning for policy or business operations have stemmed from both sides listening to one another to better understand the full picture, and to move forward collaboratively for the greater good. Only when we bring all voices to the table is when we can collectively develop the sustainable energy future.
Today I encourage my employees, colleagues, friends and family to make a more purposeful effort to listen more. Soaking up knowledge and reviewing different points of view on topics in your work and personal lives will help us all become better informed and empathetic individuals.
Over my tenure as President of WSPA I’ve realized a few best practices in this space, and want to share three simple tips that can help us all be more mindful of listening:
- Affirm that you aren’t just listening, but actually hearing people. There’s a difference between acknowledging information and understanding the purpose behind it. Even if we don’t fully agree or understand someone else’s point of view, it’s important to always make people feel heard and that their opinion or perspective matters.
- Press pause on immediate, knee-jerk reactions. I’ve found that even waiting a few minutes to process information, and, ideally, listen further or learn more, will help us all with more thoughtful responses, and avoid the “I wish I didn’t respond like that” feeling that we’ve all felt at one time or another in our personal and professional lives.
- Make listening be just the first step towards better understanding. Properly listening is a huge first step, but it’s not the only step. Take the initiative to follow up with questions or learn more on your own about issues and perspectives you may not fully understand or initially agree with. We can always be better prepared and more empathetic in responding to and acting on circumstances, even if we don’t agree with them.
If we can all take the time to read or listen just 10 percent more on subjects that are important to us and society, I truly believe we can become better informed, and in turn, better. No one has the corner on wisdom, and I think we’ll find in many cases that there’s more that unites us than divides us, but we have to listen first to get there.