Every organisation, certainly every law firm, should have a Listening Board.

Did you know that there are fewer than 10 places in the US where you can record silence (by which I mean free from man-made sounds) for up to 15 minutes?

I tried it as I was walking the dogs and amplified birdsong in the hush of silent (ish) streets moved me to capture the moment. By the 4th interruption, I was overcome with nostalgia for those wasted precious lockdown days when I hadn’t tuned in to those moments of silent stillness.

The importance of active listening is well documented and featured emphatically in a ‘Leaders & Impact’ session we designed and ran for Freshfields*.

But in the immediacy of the Covid crisis, I wonder whether good leaders, in throwing themselves in a frenzy of effective communication, might forget to listen out not just for the amplified birdsong but also for the quality of the silence around it - what is heard as much as what isn’t - because in so doing they will pick up a tonal shift in their people which will allow them to shape their messaging and impact accordingly.

Our active listening initiatives are now overlaid by a digital diagnostic tool which brings out the birdsong and the voice of the silent in every part of an organisation. We call it listening with evidence**.

In the deepest depth of Hoh Rain Forest lies a small red stone marking One Square Inch of Silence, one of the quietest places in the USA (though now under threat from Navy Growler jets). I’m determined to find my own One Square Inch before lockdown is over. Save the recording as a reminder that listening to that quality of silence makes you wholly present and aware.

Enforced confinement has helped, of course. Less rushing around means an opportunity to be still, to reflect and reset, to read and to listen. So I did a little foray into the world of Silence and found an unexpected list of the physical benefits derived from natural quiet including lower blood pressure, boosted immune system, hormone regulation, lower stress levels and even new brain cells. 

It is also claimed that natural quiet increases generosity, trust awe and wonder (although so far it has not had this effect on my husband).

My research led me to The Global Listening Centre. They even have a Global Listening Board. How can you not love that? Their definition of the act of listening (see tagged quote) is quite splendid, as is their vision “to see the future society as a world that listens before acting”. Hello world peace. In the meantime, this is standard practice for sound leadership (no pun intended).

Talking of what cannot be heard makes me realise that by posting this I am contributing to a blizzard of electronic noise but it seems I cannot resist the urge all humans have (apart from my adolescent boys) to communicate, share and collaborate. And more so in times of crisis. But that is the subject of another article.

*happy to provide you with a copy of the findings

**happy to tell you more