Do you find yourself avoiding situations that require you to listen? Would you rather read a report or send a text or email rather than having to talk with someone directly? If you are a leader, especially a leader in the medical or other service professions, you may be experiencing listener burnout.
When there is little listening energy to give, we communicate in ways that require the least from us.
What is Listener Burnout?
People who listen intensely for long stretches of time without breaks often experience listener fatigue and burnout. These people find it difficult to focus and stay engaged at work and at home. They find themselves faking attention, hiding out from others, trying to “look like they’re listening” or burying themselves in technology devices. While listener burnout can be situational or temporary, today’s demanding, dynamic and fast-paced environments requiring back to back conference calls, presentations and feedback sessions fuel chronic listener burnout.
At the executive level, the pressure to listen and communicate multiplies. As leaders advance in their careers many believe that they “communicate” all the time. Yet, at least 70% of employees report little or no “quality” communication and feedback from their supervisors with whom they want it most. By the end of the day, many leaders have little or no listening energy left to give. Leaders who experience listener burnout are perceived as less open-minded, creative, personable and effective. Think about the demands on your own listening recently. Are you at risk of listener burnout?
Listening Energy Sappers
The most severe drain on listening energy comes from people energy sappers. Similar to a “brain drain,” people sappers take energy from others…they may be long-winded, redundant, self-serving or demanding. Leaders in high people contact professions find a disproportionate number of people sappers. Other common listening energy sappers are worry, anxiety or physical fatigue. Successful leaders recognize their energy drains and find ways to replenish their listening energy during the day.
People Energy Sappers and What to DO about it
The ability to fulfill daily demands with sufficient listening energy depends on a leader’s success in conserving resources throughout the day. Effective listening leaders understand who, when and how to engage with others. Instead of listening harder to everyone who wants an audience, they listen smarter.
- engage Gatekeepers to run interference and minimize disruptions from people zappers,
- block out time for themselves to recharge their listening energy,
- when possible, schedule meetings earlier in the day when others have a greater capacity to listen,
- provide clear expectations about how they want information presented and
- use tools to manage/coach others to be successful
Download our free checklist: Conference Call Burn-out Checklist
Many people have little or no energy listening reserves at the end of the day. Even so, good listeners have the capacity to and know how to tap into an “energy reservoir” to listen with awareness, intention and effort.