TheHamilton Mausoleum is located in Hamilton, South Lanarkshire, Scotland. It was the resting place of the family of the Dukes of Hamilton. A place of ethereal beauty, its massive dome and high stone once held the record for the longest echo within any man-made structure in the world, taking 15 seconds for the sound of a slammed door to fade. The record was broken in 2014 at the somewhat less notable Inchindown oil storage tanks in the Scottish Highlands when an official fired a pistol blank inside one of the tanks and the sound reverberated for 112 seconds!
Fascinating! But neither of these historic echo chambers holds a candle to the ones we find ourselves trapped in these days. Contemporarily speaking, an echo chamber is defined as an environment in which a person encounters only beliefs or opinions that coincide with their own so their existing views are reinforced, and alternative ideas are not considered. Google any current hot topic – religion, politics, climate change, or social justice and in the blink of an algorithm you are likely to find yourself in the company of people with like-minded views without any particular effort on your part – thereby reinforcing the rightness of your opinions.
How does that affect your relationships at work? When you hire, coach, mentor, discipline, and even exit employees? Without serious effort, it is possible, even probable, that you may find yourself more drawn to people who are aligned with your personal worldviews and somewhat distrustful of those who aren’t.
As businesses work to intentionally attract and retain a more diverse and inclusive workforce, it is essential that we examine the pitfalls inherent in our personal biases.
Genuine curiosity is key. Encouraging curiosity across the workplace often results in more creativity and better business outcomes. Curiosity is also associated with less defensive reactions to stress. It can encourage people to understand each other’s perspectives and to take an interest in other’s ideas. Try this – when engaging in conversation, don’t come with a list of points you want to make but rather with things you want to learn.
In such divisive times as these when the work of inclusion is more important than ever, healing begins with empathetic listening. Listening – deeply listening – is a vastly underrated life and leadership skill. Listening is hard work, made harder still in a world where our attention is fractured by constantly competing demands. Like any skill, it can be learned and improved upon with practice.
I close with something wise that Bryant McGill had to say on both these topics:
“Curiosity is one of the great secrets of happiness.” and “One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.”