An inclusive listener engages with a colleague in an office

Inclusive Listening Helps Connect Global Teams

Articles Nov 30, 2023

What, exactly, is Inclusive Listening?

Language is a two-way street. It takes both a speaker and a listener, to make communication work. Think of it as two wheels on a bike. If one wheel isn’t up to speed, there’s little forward movement.  

Inclusive listening is the act of listening, with intentionality, to all the voices of a diverse workforce. It means listening to others in ways that invite participation and collaboration. In a global workforce, where English isn’t everyone’s first language, inclusive listening includes developing the skills to understand the accents of clients and colleagues who speak English as an additional language (aka accent comprehension). Without this ability, a business’s bottom line is compromised. Let’s take a deep dive into what happens when communication is compromised by an inability to understand accents that are different from our own.

The research is clear. Regardless of language, accents make speech more difficult for the listener’s brain to process. This processing difficulty can cause the listener to remember less accurately what the speaker says, make snap judgements, and even doubt the credibility of the speaker. There exists a greater chance of errors and people’s ideas are discounted because of their accents. Companies lose money, time, and opportunities when their employees (or partners) can’t understand one another. Inclusive listening is a business imperative.


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