Coffee Conversations Ep. 18: Look Below the Surface

September 23, 2022
  • Bob Chapman
  • Bob Chapman
    CEO & Chairman of Barry-Wehmiller

A few weeks ago, International Business Times published a column of mine, “The Secret to Becoming a Caring Leader.”

In it, I wrote:

Listening isn't doing nothing; it's doing something -- and it's something very active and specific -- in service to others. It is a human skill that is critically needed in all aspects of leadership. And in our experience at Barry-Wehmiller, it is the one skill that has truly changed the lives of the people within our span of care.

It's not about hearing what the other person is saying, but more deeply understanding what they feel, or the message behind their words. When someone feels heard by you, you have let them know that they matter.

Everyone is born with unique attributes and has a personality type that creates a lens through which they experience the world. Two people can see exactly the same situation and see it entirely differently.

True empathetic listening -- where one actually hears the other person's words and feelings -- is the kind of listening that builds empathy as it allows us to see things from others' perspectives. It's the key to all meaningful relationships as it shows that you respect and care for the person you're hearing.

If you want to be a caring leader, you have to really understand the proper way to listen. The way we actualize caring is through empathetic listening.

This week’s installment in our Coffee Conversations video series – our final chapter of 18 in this learning series – is about listening with empathy. What we often see or hear on the surface from others may not tell the entire story. Empathy helps show others you care, so more may be revealed.

Watching the entire Coffee Conversations series can teach you the principles  in our Listen Like a Leader communication skill class at Barry-Wehmiller. This class is also taught by the Chapman Foundation for Caring Communities and Chapman & Co. Leadership Institute to people outside our organization.

Overwhelmingly, graduates of the class realized how little they knew about listening vs. talking. Listen Like a Leader taught them how to listen actively—to hear not just the words but understand the meaning and feelings behind the words. The result: improved working relationships and, moreover, improved relationships with their family and friends.

For those of us who have taken this class, the Coffee Conversations series is a way to consistently keep these listening principles in our heads, a reminder to keep our skills sharp.

For those of you who have not had the opportunity to take our class, the series is a good way to learn to be a better listener. As you watch and start incorporating these principles into your daily life, I’m sure you’ll see a difference.

And these little differences, a little more empathy person to person, is how we will create a better world.

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