The Art of Listening

Want to know the secret to a great interview (or any great meeting for that matter)?

It’s not the ability to dazzle with charm, intelligence and witty insights.

It’s not talking at all. It’s listening.

A friend of mine told me that not too long ago.

It was a bit hard for me to take this in at first because I actually pride myself on being pretty handy with a quick response. And like many of us, I am probably a bit too enamored with the sound of my own voice.

But in the spirit of the subject, and helped by a glass (or two) of extraordinary Chardonnay- I decided to put my skepticism aside and try to really hear what she was saying.

And as she talked more about it, I decided I believe her.

Partly because she is one of the best people I know at building client relationships and winning new business- so she has lots of credibility on the subject.

But also because the more I thought about it, the more it makes sense.

Listening, really listening to what someone else has to say, and not just biding your time til it’s your turn to speak…shows a lot of good qualities.

It shows respect, interest, restraint, thoughtfulness.

It makes the other person feel flattered and heard (two powerful emotional drivers).

But here’s the thing, listening is hard.

You have to work at it to be really good at it.

It seems there is so much focus these days on sharing, talking, blogging (mea culpa), communicating, networking etc. That we often overlook the important art of listening.

It’s something I’m trying to get better at, but it’s taking a fair amount of conscious effort.

So I’ve asked a few people for advice on being a better listener, and here are a few tips I’ve picked up:

– Force yourself to focus, put away the Blackberry
– Don’t take notes, it actually takes the focus away from the conversation
– Concentrate instead on being present, repeat out loud what you’ve just heard
– Pause after someone is finished speaking
– Resist the urge to rush in with a comment
– Thank the other person for sharing their view before you respond
– Don’t’ say “yeah, but”, instead may it a habit to respond with “yes,and…”

Active listening, if done right, encourages you to build on the idea that you just heard instead of tearing it down.

This will lead to better meetings, more successful interview, and stronger relationships.

Hard to debate the value of all that. Isn’t it?

That’s my point of view. What’s your twist?
How do you hone your listening skills?

3 thoughts on “The Art of Listening

  1. For me, the cardinal rule of active listening is asking questions (not tons, just enough). By asking questions you show you've listened and want more information. You put the speaker in the comfort zone of her/his own knowledge. And if you're sharp, your question/s can guide the conversation to where you want it to go without it seeming like you've 'taken control.'

  2. Great post. Great.

    Another tip is very typical in therapy settings – "What I'm hearing you say is…" and playing back what you've heard. It is so nice when people do that to me – it demonstrates that they are REALLY listening.

  3. Great comments. I hear what you are saying. And I apprecite your input. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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