How true of a statement this actually is, isn’t it? Although it may not be that obvious to a non-champion of the Agile manifesto, anyone can understand agility, in life and in business alike. In this time and day, agility in business is cardinal to its success. And being a good listener is a big part of it.

Being a good listener is being Agile

Listening instead of reacting

I’ve taken part in absurd conversations one too many times throughout my career, so far. From meetings that should have simply been a chat message or email, to fully fledged arguments over some in-vain notion. If nothing else, I’ve learnt one thing; people have a reason for every odd notion, obscure plan or groundbreaking idea. There is reasoning behind their belief system and their idea of reality. And oftentimes there is some important bit of reasoning that eludes us.

What is the importance of being a good listener?

Ah! The bits of wisdom you get access to! You can learn so much more by listening. Oh, how better you can understand people! And what a better person you have the opportunity to become, too! That’s by simply being a good listener.

While I realize I’m a bit overly enthusiastic about it, I think the benefits you can reap out of listening far outweigh a reactive behavior. Besides, it’s faster. If you listen to what people are trying to say, what they’re thinking, what they need or what troubles them, you gain a different perspective. One you might never get into on your own. And guess what! Said perspective makes you better at understanding situations, better at resolving problems. It makes you an even better listener altogether. So, understanding where people are coming from when they say something, is usually more important than you think.

These are real-life benefits. One might say that being a good listener is probably the compendium of personal development. And having been a listener since I was a wee lad, I can attest to that, regardless if I’m a good or a mediocre one. Apart from reading whatever lands in my hands, listening has effervescently complemented my view of reality over time; changed it even.

Why is automatic reaction a problem?

Sometimes, we can jump to conclusions faster than a gag reflex. And yes, I chose this metaphor on purpose. Hopefully, you can understand my distress here.

Have you ever had anyone persistently doubt your specific knowledge over some subject? Or second guessing you? How about constantly interrupting you? Or maybe not letting you make an argument altogether? I think we’ve all been in such company. Have you ever stopped to wonder why?

The reason behind it

While it’s hard to reach a conclusion about the reason why this is happening, I tend to listen even more carefully in such cases. At least give my interlocutor a chance to express their concerns before I decide it’s no use trying to get through to them.

That said, science has helped us understand that, along other reasons, there are several conditions responsible for such behaviors. We should be respectful of that fact and always take it into consideration, before reaching our own conclusions. Nevertheless, there’s still a chance you’ll never make heads or tails of the situation. Being at least prepared for that fact, is one way of looking at it.

Its side-effects

Being a conversationalist reacting by reflex is a time-hog for your partners. Not only will the conversation get nowhere; you’re also being obnoxious to everyone. You’re now creating all the wrong impressions and making sure no one will cooperate with you in the future. That’s because – you guessed it – your behavior costs everyone time and effort that is misplaced.

Why is it a problem after all?

By not being a listener, you’re causing other people’s frustration and negativity. And there’s a conglomerate of reactions you may invoke; all of them negative. If people perceive you joining a conversation with your mind already made up, unwilling to budge, you’ll only register in their minds as some kind of irritation. They might not take you seriously. That’s because, in their minds, they’re losing their time with you. This reaction on their side makes perfect sense, if you think about it. Why would someone join a conversation if their mind is already made up, after all?

So, now you’re creating these people some possibly undeserved overhead. As a result, they’re ignoring you to save time. Whereas if you were a listener, the conversation would be more productive for everyone. Opinions would be shared improved and decided upon without unnecessary distractions. Faster, more effectively and with much better results to conclude with. That’s agility for you!

And that’s why I sustain that being a good listener is being Agile. You inherently become faster performing, more reliable and quite wiser, altogether.

Listening is understanding

Even at this level of complexity, or difficulty, listening remains – hands down – the best way to learn, optimize a method or belief, solve a problem or improve your way of thinking. You see, as you add different perspectives at your perception of a situation or problem, you learn more about it and find different ways to go about it. Simply put, you’re getting wiser; being a good listener you understand more of the world around you, in more ways than one.

Early learning for Agile

Let’s get back to business. Learning is actually a way of life. Not circumstantial evidence proving yourself as being “good with people”. And I say this in hope you can appreciate the difference.

Now, imagine a conversation where you doubt yourself first, understanding the nuances of the argument and your automatic reaction before you even blink, then talk. How would it go?

Perfectly, if you ask me! In my experience, this way of thinking will save you from so many unneeded arguments, you’ll be amazed. And being one that tends to over-analyze matters, I’ve been there quite a few times. More importantly, being a good listener will allow you to adjust and fine-tune your view of the world. And you will have countless opportunities to do it! How’s that for Agile?

If you stick to that plan, you’ll just keep learning. And you’ll keep understanding more and more of the world around you. You’ll figure out how to do things. Eventually you’ll know how to do things the right way. I kid you not; you’ll be able to make it so much faster than by setting yourself on automatic reaction mode.

What’s with being a good listener?

Being a good listener has proven to be so much more effective than not being one. It saves you time and effort. You can reach the right conclusions much faster. And you have the opportunity to constantly learn more about the world and about people. Your daily routine can get so much better and effective; to the point you can actually make a difference. What a prospect to live by, isn’t it? Being a good listener is being agile, indeed. So, give it a try; start listening. See what you can find out today. Perhaps, even, build your own culture of trust, will ya?


Panagiotis Sarantopoulos Panagiotis Sarantopoulos

Studied Science of Computing at the University of Huddersfield in UK, specialising in Animation for Multimedia Systems. He has worked as a Multimedia Author for IBM Hellas and as an Adobe Certified Instructor and Support Technician for Adobe Systems software at Anodos SA. He has also worked at various Advertising Agencies, as a Web/ActionScript developer.