Disagreement is a Short-hand for Poor Listening: How Listening Experience Shapes Communications in Organizations

Zhiying (Bella) Ren, PhD Candidate, and Rebecca Schaumberg, Operations, Information and Decisions, The Wharton School

Abstract: Making others feel heard facilitates collaborative decision-making within organizations and effective communication with clients, ultimately affecting organizational success. Past literature on communication suggests that listeners could convey good listening by demonstrating comprehension and attention. However, across three preregistered studies, we find that regardless of listeners’ objective listening quality, speakers believe that listeners who agree with them are better listeners and more open-minded than listeners who disagree with them. This effect is likely due to naïve realism. In this proposal, we explore the implications of this disagreement/agreement effect for firm communication. Across three proposed studies, we aim to investigate 1) whether employees view colleagues/employers who disagree with them as bad listeners, despite objective signs of attentive listening; and 2) whether users are more satisfied with chatbots that signal a high level of attitude agreement with the user. Our research makes important contributions to the literature on conversations. Our research also provides organizations with useful insights on facilitating effective communication within organizations and adopting innovative technology to facilitate human-bot interactions.