“We have two ears and one tongue so that we would listen more and talk less.” –Diogenes
We love the sound of our own voice, so much so that we sometimes don’t know when to shut up. Talking is lots of fun, especially for the extroverts among us. Silence can be uncomfortable. But we all know that listening is an important communication skill. When we allow others to express themselves and tell their story, we demonstrate that we care about them and that we value the quality of the information that they are sharing.
The benefits of good listening skills are significant. Everyone loves a good listener and one invariably learns a lot by listening, including who is worth listening to! People will open up and sometimes say the darndest things and all we have to do is be there and show that we are paying attention. It is ironic that saying and (mostly) doing nothing is such a vital component of relationship-building. Yet listening is the foundation of bonding; silently, one demonstrates empathy, telegraphs that another human being matters and creates rapport. Fortunately, the art of listening can be learned.
When listening, give the speaker your undivided attention. Nothing else demonstrates the level of respect that you have for another than this one act. Let the phone go to voicemail, close the laptop lid. Sharing your valuable time with another and focusing your attention on that individual is so validating. It is also a defining element of charisma. Charismatic people are known to make whomever they are listening to feel as if only the two of them are in the room. Demonstrate your laser focus with eye contact, smiling or showing concern, nodding your head and declining to interrupt, except to ask a question or two that ensures that you understand what is being said.
As noted above, when people start talking, you might be floored by what is revealed. No matter how you feel about what has been said, maintain your cool. Show that you are worthy of the trust that has been extended to you by way of the revelation. Appreciate and acknowledge the risk that was taken by the speaker when the decision was made to confide in you.
Always take notes when in a business meeting. When you write as someone talks, you demonstrate that the subject of the conversation is important to you. The note-taking process also allows you to ask questions to ensure that you understand what has been said. Within 24 hours, send an email in which you thank that individual for meeting with you and confirm the agreed-upon next steps.
Stephen Covey (1932-2012), author of the timeless self-help classic The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (1989), noted that most people listen not to understand, but to reply. Be careful not to jump to conclusions or hear only what you want or expect to hear. Perfect the art of listening and minimize miscommunication problems that can lead to costly mistakes or hurt feelings.
Listening is an art form that unfortunately, is underrated. Regardless, the most compelling leaders, the most successful sales professionals, the most powerful negotiators, the most charismatic people and those with whom we develop the most satisfying relationships are all active listeners. Follow the advice of Diogenes and sharpen your listening skills by employing patience and self-discipline to your business and social conversations.
Thanks for reading,