There’s no doubt that technology has revolutionized the way we communicate. It’s truly amazing how much information we can get and how fast we can get it thanks to the Internet, social media, and through our phones and the countless number of TV stations. But along the way, we are slowly losing one important human trait—the art of “good listening.”
I’m the first to admit that I’m addicted to my iPhone, my iPad, my laptop, and my TV. There’s just so much information out there (the good, bad and ugly). I can’t get enough of it. We have at our fingertips the ability to get our news within seconds, to easily connect with long lost friends and relatives, and to catch up with work on the road—even when we are thousands of miles away from headquarters. Good stuff!
But technology is turning many of us into awful listeners. It’s all too easy to multitask. Are we really doing a good job listening if we’re playing with our phone at the same time? And nearly everyone is talking at each other—through websites, blogs, Twitter, Facebook—and not to each other. Technology has handed a microphone to all of us. Just moments ago, I checked out a CNN newsfeed on Facebook and there are more than 3,000 comments about the upcoming GOP presidential debate. People love to share their views. But is anyone listening?
And as we have evolved into commentators and self-proclaimed experts, we seem less apt to change our minds on issues. The wealth of public comments on the Internet isn’t usually thoughtful discussion or “good listening”—it’s usually people talking about provocative topics, stating their opinions in a firm way, maybe name-calling someone who disagrees, and then moving on. It’s a waste of time.
“Good listening” is such a lost art that the trait stands out when I meet someone who has it. And when I say “good listening,” I’m not talking about someone who will just allow you to speak—all the while preparing a response—but rather someone who actively listens and wants to engage in a meaningful discussion.
When I interview job applicants, I’m all ears when it comes to looking for a candidate who is a good listener. Good listeners stand out because they are so rare. On a few occasions, when a candidate is talking non-stop, I’ve thought “I’m going to let him babble on until he stops.” It’s amazing how long someone can filibuster.
So why does this matter in the world of healthcare technology—or frankly any profession?
Good listening skills are essential to providing good customer service, to building good interdepartmental relationships, and to managing up and down within any organization. And good listening skills can help us learn. I never thought I would quote former CNN host Larry King, but as Larry once said: “I never learned anything while I was talking.”
Good listening skills are also key to a consensus-building organization such as AAMI. Members need to hear and understand the differing views at the table—the manufacturer, the regulator, the clinician, and the engineers and technicians—to help produce solid decisions. Thankfully—and you might expect me to say this but I believe it’s true—AAMI has a high proportion of good listeners who volunteer their expertise.
That said, we all have room for improvement and can’t take “good listening” for granted. Don’t get me wrong: I love technology and all that it has brought us. I just don’t want good listening skills to slip away while we are checking on Facebook updates for the 20th time in the day.
Steve Campbell is chief operating officer at AAMI.