The PeopleCap Playbook

Timely insights and actionable people strategies for leaders.

Listening Is Therapy

red sofa therapy couch

While conducting interviews with employees for a client, one person leaned in at the close of the interview and said, “You’re so easy to talk to. Thank you so much – it feels like therapy!”

The great part was that this organization isn’t facing any issue of note and the interview was pretty basic, as interviews in my world go – nothing heavy or emotional came up. It’s not uncommon for people to respond this way following an hour telling me about their work lives, some even get a bit choked up or cry. Typically, they feel lighter because there are sticky issues they face in their workplace. But not this time. This time, without a true concern to discuss, I think she just felt good having some time and space to share what was on her mind.

It was a rare luxury. Simply asking someone about their world and then sitting back and really listening is both scarce and extremely valuable. As lovely as the compliment felt, it was also a bit amusing.

Anyone related to me would never call me a good listener. My husband, parents, brothers would all tell you I prefer talking over listening – proof that listening is a learned skill. If I can manage to make people feel they’ve been listened to in a way that feels like therapy, anyone can build their listening competence.

People pay good money for therapy. Imagine the investment you make when you listen to your colleagues – really listen. And then imagine the result of an organization full of employees who feel the relief of sharing their concerns with someone who is “easy to talk to” and who they can trust with what they share. It’s pretty powerful stuff.

Brush up on those listening skills. Ask questions focused on the other person: their opinion, experiences, perspective, hopes, concerns. And then be quiet. If I can be a good listener when I intend to be, I assure you anyone can. Now, if only I practiced my own advice at home….