Ahmad Badr: Be a good listener – it will take you far



I recently heard a simple workplace experience that I think really underlines why listening is among the most practically useful of business skills. That it also stands out, despite its simplicity, perhaps also suggests that listening is something that many of us could do well to work on some more.

Here, then, is the story. An employee came to their manager with a difficult and still-developing client problem, one that could only be resolved by calling the client in question in a desperate effort to directly resolve the issue. The problem the employee had was that the situation had degenerated to such a low ebb that they no longer felt they could make this call without diminishing the relationship still further and upsetting the client to a terminal degree. Let us (for the sake of drama at least) assume that this client’s business was also pretty crucial to the whole organisation’s success. That’s when they approached their manager for help.

This manager, at once, asked for the number and called the client, despite having no previous contact with this person, nor any understanding of the issue beyond the most basic of panicked pleas. They weren’t previously briefed on the situation and they had no concept of what the client might say.

What followed was a perhaps surprisingly good-natured 10-minute talk, during which the manager said very little, except to ask necessarily open questions about the client’s problem. There was no shouting, no angry confrontation, just an actual conversation where the manager was able to successfully resolve a festering issue in the time it takes to buy a latte.

Why did this work? Because the manager went into the conversation without any one-sided knowledge or any preconceptions about the situation. He didn’t have a script prepared, and he hadn’t thought about any arguments, excuses or justifications. All he could do was listen to the client and respond, on the hoof, to whatever they had to say.

This didn’t mean the client wasn’t angry, nor did it mean the manager would simply roll over and agree to any demand. But it did mean that the client felt that their point of view was really being listened to and properly engaged with. The manager heard their particular complaint, responded to it fully and, in doing so, ultimately demonstrated the value that he placed on this customer and their situation. He empathised, listened with an open mind and was then equipped to make an evident effort to solve the problem.

Listening, of course, has an air of passivity about it that maybe doesn’t sit well as a top-level skill to be learnt and practised. After all, you listen to conversations all the time; sometimes – unavoidably – ones you aren’t even involved in. Practising listening, the logic might run, requires you do nothing at all.

However, the truth is that many of us conduct conversations more as monologues broken up by occasional white noise, rather than as truly responsive give-and-takes of opinion and experience. We bring our own biases and understanding to the table, and we don’t necessarily hear everything (even anything) that is being said as a result.

In the workplace particularly, this can be a problem in many situations. Providing feedback without hearing an employee’s frustrations and concerns; contacting a supplier without heeding their clearly stated terms; advising a client without understanding their actual needs. All are likely to lead to greater friction and issues down the line, in spite of all the information needed being readily offered up.

Naturally, I’m not saying that every conversation should be leapt into with two feet and no preparation – such an approach certainly has the potential to end as badly as it might end well. But it definitely doesn’t hurt to approach potentially difficult work conversations with a resolve to make the conscious effort to shut your mouth and to listen more instead.

Ahmad Badr is the chief executive of Abu Dhabi University Knowledge Group.

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Quarter-finals

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England v Australia, 11.15am 
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Wales v France, 11.15am
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Jumanji: The Next Level

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Two out of five stars 

The permutations for UAE going to the 2018 World Cup finals

To qualify automatically

UAE must beat Iraq.

Australia must lose in Japan and at home to Thailand, with their losing margins and the UAE's winning margin over Iraq being enough to overturn a goal difference gap of eight.

Saudi Arabia must lose to Japan, with their losing margin and the UAE's winning margin over Iraq being enough to overturn a goal difference gap of eight.

To finish third and go into a play-off with the other third-placed AFC side for a chance to reach the inter-confederation play-off match

UAE must beat Iraq.

Saudi Arabia must lose to Japan, with their losing margin and the UAE's winning margin over Iraq being enough to overturn a goal difference gap of eight.

Fight Night

FIGHT NIGHT

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Amir Khan v Billy Dib - WBC International title
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Dave Penalosa v Lerato Dlamini - WBC Silver title
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Company name: Revibe
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Founders: Hamza Iraqui and Abdessamad Ben Zakour
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Industry: Refurbished electronics
Funds raised so far: $10m
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UAE FIXTURES

October 18 – 7.30pm, UAE v Oman, Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi
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October 29 – 2.10pm, Playoff 1 – A2 v B3; 7.30pm, Playoff 2 – A3 v B2, at Dubai International Stadium.
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Attacks on Egypt’s long rooted Copts

Egypt’s Copts belong to one of the world’s oldest Christian communities, with Mark the Evangelist credited with founding their church around 300 AD. Orthodox Christians account for the overwhelming majority of Christians in Egypt, with the rest mainly made up of Greek Orthodox, Catholics and Anglicans.

The community accounts for some 10 per cent of Egypt’s 100 million people, with the largest concentrations of Christians found in Cairo, Alexandria and the provinces of Minya and Assiut south of Cairo.

Egypt’s Christians have had a somewhat turbulent history in the Muslim majority Arab nation, with the community occasionally suffering outright persecution but generally living in peace with their Muslim compatriots. But radical Muslims who have first emerged in the 1970s have whipped up anti-Christian sentiments, something that has, in turn, led to an upsurge in attacks against their places of worship, church-linked facilities as well as their businesses and homes.

More recently, ISIS has vowed to go after the Christians, claiming responsibility for a series of attacks against churches packed with worshippers starting December 2016.

The discrimination many Christians complain about and the shift towards religious conservatism by many Egyptian Muslims over the last 50 years have forced hundreds of thousands of Christians to migrate, starting new lives in growing communities in places as far afield as Australia, Canada and the United States.

Here is a look at major attacks against Egypt's Coptic Christians in recent years:

November 2: Masked gunmen riding pickup trucks opened fire on three buses carrying pilgrims to the remote desert monastery of St. Samuel the Confessor south of Cairo, killing 7 and wounding about 20. IS claimed responsibility for the attack.

May 26, 2017: Masked militants riding in three all-terrain cars open fire on a bus carrying pilgrims on their way to the Monastery of St. Samuel the Confessor, killing 29 and wounding 22. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.

April 2017: Twin attacks by suicide bombers hit churches in the coastal city of Alexandria and the Nile Delta city of Tanta. At least 43 people are killed and scores of worshippers injured in the Palm Sunday attack, which narrowly missed a ceremony presided over by Pope Tawadros II, spiritual leader of Egypt Orthodox Copts, in Alexandria's St. Mark's Cathedral. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks.

February 2017: Hundreds of Egyptian Christians flee their homes in the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula, fearing attacks by ISIS. The group's North Sinai affiliate had killed at least seven Coptic Christians in the restive peninsula in less than a month.

December 2016: A bombing at a chapel adjacent to Egypt's main Coptic Christian cathedral in Cairo kills 30 people and wounds dozens during Sunday Mass in one of the deadliest attacks carried out against the religious minority in recent memory. ISIS claimed responsibility.

July 2016: Pope Tawadros II says that since 2013 there were 37 sectarian attacks on Christians in Egypt, nearly one incident a month. A Muslim mob stabs to death a 27-year-old Coptic Christian man, Fam Khalaf, in the central city of Minya over a personal feud.

May 2016: A Muslim mob ransacks and torches seven Christian homes in Minya after rumours spread that a Christian man had an affair with a Muslim woman. The elderly mother of the Christian man was stripped naked and dragged through a street by the mob.

New Year's Eve 2011: A bomb explodes in a Coptic Christian church in Alexandria as worshippers leave after a midnight mass, killing more than 20 people.

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2. Remco Evenepoel (BEL) Soudal–Quick-Step - ST
3. Nikias Arndt (GER) Bahrain Victorious - 3"

A QUIET PLACE

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Rating: 4/5

TOURNAMENT INFO

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Pros and cons of BNPL

Pros

  • Easy to use and require less rigorous credit checks than traditional credit options
  • Offers the ability to spread the cost of purchases over time, often interest-free
  • Convenient and can be integrated directly into the checkout process, useful for online shopping
  • Helps facilitate cash flow planning when used wisely

Cons

  • The ease of making purchases can lead to overspending and accumulation of debt
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  • Failure to make payments can impact credit score negatively
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