Why I’m Giving Up Listening

Today’s a big day for me. I’m giving up “listening”.

I’m giving up using the label “X-Ray Listener”. I’m closing down the website xraylistening.com. And I’m dropping the “X-Ray Listening” brand.

Of course, there’ll be loads of sorting out to do before the job’s complete – after more than six years, that branding is everywhere online! But this is my first post on my new website, and it feels like a very big step. 

So, what’s the background to this momentous decision? It involves a couple of elements.

I’m A Freelance, Not “Building A Business”

My friend Bernie Mitchell wrote a blog post about two years ago in which he admitted that he wasn’t really an entrepreneur. He wasn’t building a business. He was a freelance: what he wanted was useful work, generating a decent income to keep himself and his family. He wasn’t looking to make millions or become a household name.

“Same here!” I thought. I realised I’d bought into someone else’s dream.

I don’t actively want to create a business. I do want to change the world – doesn’t everyone? – but I want to do that from a place of freedom, connecting with collaborators on a project-by-project basis.

Once I knew that, there was no real reason to have a company name, other than my own.

Listening Isn’t Interesting

Then, just a few weeks ago, came the “Doh!” forehead-slapping moment which sealed X-Ray Listening’s fate.

I’d been talking to Sam Dyer at Smallporate about a new logo, something more suitable for the kind of business world I was working in. But I was thinking I’d just get the X-Ray Listening logo redone…

Next, I had a call with Penny Pullan about an online summit she was planning, and I was due to speak at. What should my topic be? She suggested listening, and I was very quick to respond.

“No, there’s no point in that, nobody will turn up. Every time I’ve given a talk with ‘listening’ in the title, it’s bombed. Even when people book to say they’re coming, the turnout is dreadful. They’ll get about half the usual number… let’s go with ‘Power Questions For Virtual Teams’…”

And as I heard myself saying all that, the realisation dawned. Doh!

The truth is that people don’t want to hear about listening. Everyone already thinks they’re good at it – after all, how would a poor listener actually know that they were? Every campaign to get people to do more listening, or to get listening taught in schools, falls (ironically) on deaf ears.

Listening is regarded as “common as muck”. It’s a passive and low-status activity, in sharp contrast to “public speaking”.

The fact that I think listening is a critically important, massively under-taught, element of communication is irrelevant. So is the research that supports my view.

By branding myself with the word “listening”, I’d been tripping myself up. I’d been closing the very doors I needed to open. 

It was time for a change.

2 thoughts on “Why I’m Giving Up Listening”

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