Two ears, one mouth

A gentle reminder on the importance of listening

Babatunde Mumuni
3 min readFeb 13, 2024
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez 🇨🇦 on Unsplash

I have read a lot about the importance of listening as a foundational element of good relationships. Many people much smarter than me and armed with research have written at length on the subject, so my intention here is not to reinvent the wheel.

It is no less important in the workplace — which is very often the subject of a lot of my musings and writing. It seems to be gaining some popularity these days though for the longest time, it was tucked away somewhere under “effective communication” which is the poster child of soft skills.

Soft skills! Such a horrible moniker. As painfully obvious as this may seem, it is shocking to witness just how many times important things break down or don’t achieve the desired outcomes simply because people fail to have proper conversations. If it were possible to actually quantify, I wonder how many transformations have failed because of a corporate-level inability to listen!

First off, I need to quickly surface the fact that for some reason, talking gets all the love. It is celebrated. The world is the oyster of the eloquent and articulate. Talking is “contributory” so it is seen as a sign of engagement. It is therefore encouraged, and in certain cases, mandated.

It took a recent experience with a colleague to give me more clarity on the subject.

Why is it important to listen at work?

Photo by saeed karimi on Unsplash

It seems so silly it shouldn’t even be said, but listening helps us to understand. When we take in the other person’s perspective or point of view, we are better able to have meaningful conversations. Now this doesn’t mean we will agree all the time, but it even helps with productive dissent when you have a clear picture of where the other person stands.

Some so many latent needs and issues can be uncovered if we take the pains of actually listening to what our colleagues say. I also need to add that it doesn’t matter at this point if you think (feel? know?) they are wrong. This leads me to my next point.

Listening is a powerful tool for inclusion and validation. It is why these days, it has become a big thing for people to feel seen and heard. When we listen, we say to people that they are important, and they have intrinsic worth. It follows then that when people feel validated, other positives will flow naturally.

Innovation, creativity, collaboration, engagement, and retention are all easier to foster in safe listening spaces.

So, what’s the call to action?

Leaders need to de-emphasize the recognition given to people who hog the mic. We need to be intentional about celebrating talkers less. In the same vein, we need to shine the light on those people who by nature or nurture have the skill of listening.

As individuals, we also need to learn to pause more often. It will help check our tendencies for repartee. This should be the default. However, I would also argue that it is even more important to pause and listen when you think you are right because that is when we are the least likely to do so.



Babatunde Mumuni

I think and write here about life as one continuous experience, not fragments stitched together. I believe that we should partake of this with our whole selves.