Cultivating the #ListenFirst Movement with Communications Scholar Graham Bodie

Each person can be unique in how they show up as a listener. Even if they are at the exact same meeting and listen to the exact same information, each person’s perspective may be different from the rest. This is normally frustrating, yet when we understand different types of listening, we can tap into the potential of cognitive diversity so that we can work smarter together.

As a leader, teacher, or even a parent, you’ll love listening to Graham shares his experience to support us to listen better in more ways than we normally consider. Learn how to understand people better, so they feel respected, valued, and heard, leading to higher performance in organizations and at home.

Graham Bodie ​is an internationally recognized communication scholar whose work focuses on what all organizations and individuals need to do better, LISTEN.​ ​Based on his extensive knowledge of ​how individuals and teams can more effectively communicate and build consensus​, Dr. Bodie facilitates customized workshops and delivers compelling keynote addresses for groups of all sizes. 

His work has been funded by the National Science Foundation and featured in the ​Wall Street Journal​, Psychology Today, and on National Public Radio. Dr. Bodie received his B.A. and M.A. from Auburn University and his Ph.D. from Purdue University. He teaches courses in Integrated Marketing Communication​ at the University of Mississippi and dedicates substantial time to mend our frayed social fabric through his work with the non-profit Listen First Project​.

In this episode, Graham shares how listening is not one discipline, instead of a broad field in diverse areas. He helps us understand ‘cognitive diversity in listening,’ recognizing it as advantageous to organizations increasing effectiveness, productivity, and team members’ motivation. He also highlights the ‘listen the first mindset”’ approach focused on inclusivity in diversity, creating more understanding and better teamwork.

“When you listen well, people feel heard. And when people feel heard, they feel respected and valued. And then inside an organization, when they feel respected and valued, they stay. And they work harder, and they’re more productive.”  

– Graham Bodie

Valuable Resource: 

The Handbook of Listening by Graham Bodie:

Listen IN Notes:

02:02 – Recognizing that listening is much more complex than he originally considered drew him to research listening as a behavior attitude within social support in close relationships.

06:47 – Graham shared his thoughts on how he perceived the art of listening as happening in the field of communication. When in fact, listening is a multi-disciplinary field approached differently by various experts. 

11:27 – Talking about his book called ‘Handbook of Listening’. And how Listening is not approached in just one way. 

12:58 – Discussion on appreciating cognitive diversity in listening. Recognizing each individual’s different approach to listening provides a more robust and rich perspective about the information. 

17:37 – Bring awareness that there are multiple ways to listen, that those different ways of listening have their strengths and challenges. 

20:11 – Listening beyond eye contact. What does the power of listening translate to?

21:17 – Developing a culture of listening in an organization. This means listening first, rather than speaking first, management, and heavy hierarchy top down.

28:24 – Listening isn’t an agreement.  Graham explains how listening helps understand different perspectives and is the basis under which we operate, taking into consideration the role we play as parents, or as organizational leaders, teachers, or any other profession.

32:46 – Understanding goes deeper than just the content. Consider two meanings of messages, the content level meaning, and the relational level meaning.

36:57 – Teaching the notion of the 80/20 rule of listening. What would meetings be like if everyone would be curious and listened to each other’s perspectives?

39:24 – How is listening affected in this time of pandemic when everyone stays home? Graham shares personal challenges of leadership inside his very own home.

42:56 – How people in our circle influence our listening behaviors,  how we show up as listeners can be learned

45:08 – Unlearning old patterns and relearning new ways of listening. What’s your blueprint for listening?

48:20 – What is empathy? What is it like to have a listening approach to empathy using ‘Barefoot Listening’?

52:28 – Talking about ‘Future Listening.’ What is ‘Emerging Perspectives’ all about? 

55:47 – Graham’s almost book chapter on ‘Listening to the Universe’ 

56:33 – Learning from how animals listen. Graham is talking about the physiology and the biology of listening within different animal species, and how humans are different and similar.

1:00:02 – Imagine spending time cultivating a listen-first mindset within yourself, your family, and your organization?

Key Takeaways:

“[Listening is] about people, it’s about relationships, it’s about being inspired by someone or a small group of people, and then finding your voice within that relationship.” – Graham Bodie

“The goal of listening isn’t an agreement. It can be, but it doesn’t have to be. The goal of listening has to be understanding…at a fundamental level, listening first to understand is what we need to be operating under.”– Graham Bodie

“It’s about shedding your perspective, shedding your agenda at least for the moment, and turning to wonder and seeking to understand the ‘why.’ Not just the content, but what is underlying this person’s belief, what’s causing this person to tick in this way, and what’s leading them to the conclusion they’re coming to…if we can create something new out of your perspective and my perspective that’s beautiful. That’s what listening, at least fundamentally to me, is geared toward.” – Graham Bodie

“We’ve been taught that talking is power, that speaking is leading. If we infused societies with the flip of that, which is that listening is leading – how much more effective and efficient and productive and kind would we be as organizations, as societies, as people?”– Graham Bodie

“If you’re giving advice, you’re assuming that you understand the problem. And if you understand the problem, you’re assuming you asked the questions and you really fully took the time to understand what that problem is from that person’s point of view and perspective and life experiences. The only way for me to know your life experiences is to listen to you.”– Graham Bodie

“Think about, in your life, the way in which your opinion about the importance of listening is matched with the fervor with which you seek to really cultivate it. And if there’s a mismatch there, then what can you do to really put your money, energy, or resources where your mouth is. Put your money where your ears are!”– Graham Bodie


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