“I Can Overcome”: Listening Without Bias

November 4, 2014 Updated: April 23, 2016

One of the virtues of active listening is to remove any discriminatory preconceptions you may have about the speaker. Now, this is not exclusively about accepting or ignoring the speaker’s agenda (another chapter in the rulebook of active listening). Instead, this refers to not allowing your personal feelings or judgments to get in the way of genuinely hearing the speaker’s message. Whether it relates to the speaker’s age, attitude, politics or hairstyle, if you can overcome, you might be delighted to discover a brand-new outlook.

Who Does He Think He Is?

I was fortunate to have learned this lesson gently in high school, when an overachieving classmate whom I considered to be smug and arrogant once said something profound. At first I was compelled to disregard it because I felt he was, well….icky. But on absorbing his message with my biases restrained, I discovered a philosophy that changed my life and has served me quite well ever since.

Dear In Headlights

Have you ever encountered my classmate’s equivalent in your career? Perhaps you’ve even met his polar reverse….someone you instantly liked, who swept you away with their unrelenting charisma. Before becoming completely mesmerized, did you need to remind yourself to peel back the layers and consider the authenticity of their message? Often you may find yourself inclined to believe someone who, when analyzed, is full of empty ideals and self-serving motives, outwardly telling you “yes” while they pat your head and whisper to themselves “That’s nice, dear”.

Mightier Than Thou

This lesson came into full perspective last summer as I began to read a recommended book about setting boundaries. The entire content was analogized with biblical scripture. Being a secular thinker, I felt myself closing my mind off to certain points as I read. Quickly realizing that I might be wasting valuable time reading without absorbing, I had to make a deal with myself:  I needed to disarm my biases or risk missing out on the author’s worthwhile message. Just because my values don’t align with the messenger’s doesn’t mean there isn’t something to gain from his insight.

Fill Me In

What experiences have you had misinterpreting the message because of personal feelings about the messenger? Were you able to surmount your prejudice and ultimately learn something new? Maybe you went in without bias and ended up being duped or mislead. I’d love to hear your stories. The author of my favorite response may be invited to write a relevant guest post on my business blog!