Can You Hear Me?

A sound wave is the pattern of disturbance caused by the movement of energy traveling through a medium. Humans can perceive “waves” of energy between 20Hz and 20,000Hz as audible sound. However, we use the term “hear” to signify much more than auditory perception.

This past Thursday and Friday, I was blessed to attend the 2022 Global Leadership Summit (GLS) at a satellite site here in OKC, along with about 100 of our team members. It was an amazing two days, and I have a lot to process, but I was particularly struck by the realization that what we “hear” is impacted by a variety of factors.

Hearing another person can take many forms. During GLS, we heard from a young lady who is a singer/songwriter and is also deaf. When she lost her hearing, she had to relearn how to “hear” the sounds she is making with her voice and feel the rhythm of the music to keep time. For her, hearing isn’t an audible event.

Likewise, much of what I need to “hear” from those around me isn’t audible. I need to tune in to the emotions, body language, and unspoken communication happening around me. This requires a different kind of attention than what I apply to the music I listen to on my drive home. For those tasks, I can use divided attention. To listen to people, I need to use sustained attention where I focus on the other person and tune out the rest of the noise around me.

I also must be aware of what I am hearing from my own mind and emotions. The soundtracks that play in my head cause me to approach and respond to things in certain ways. Most of us want to be successful relating to the people around us and accomplishing the goals we set for ourselves and our teams. Often, what I think and subsequently tell myself gets in the way of what I want.

I must replace negative soundtracks with positive ones. When I think about myself and other people, I should ask myself, is it true, is it helpful, and is it kind? If not, I need to replace those thought patterns with new ones and repeat them to myself until they have replaced the old, negative ones.

I also need to be aware of the bias I have towards people and situations. I often ‘hear” or perceive others through a filter that alters what they are saying into what I believe they are saying. If I believe that everyone is intrinsically and equally valuable and I have chosen to care for those around me, I must be open to having my perceptions challenged. I can start by “hearing” people from a different point of view, asking myself what it would be like to be them.

Finally, I need to be honest with myself and with others. Often, my inability to hear others is rooted in my unwillingness to be transparent and vulnerable. When there is a delta between who I really am, and who I want others to think I am, it causes pain. The noise of that pain interferes with my ability to hear other voices. Often, it even distorts my internal voice, or conscience, that should help me make my best choices. Working towards integrity, or being whole and authentic, improves my ability to listen well, first to my own internal voices and then to those of the people around me.

People want and need to be heard. After physiological needs (air, water, food) and safety, love and social belonging are the most important needs a human has. Being truly heard and truly known are the primary way these needs are met. Leaders need to make sure they are personally listening to the right soundtracks, then they need to truly listen to the people they serve. When people ask, “Can you hear me?” being able to say, “Yes. Yes, I can.” and really meaning it, is true leadership, and it is The Kimray Way.