In every training event I facilitate, conversation turns in one way or another to listening. We all realize it to be important because people are talking to us, and we need to understand the messages or information they are sharing with us. Beyond that, if we are listening we may learn more than just what they are saying, but how they are feeling as well.
To be a successful communicator and leader, it is critical that we listen effectively.
Yet most of us don’t do it as well as we would like.
It would seem that the reasons already listed should be motivation enough for all of us to dedicate and discipline ourselves to becoming better listeners.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be working.
Perhaps at the end of this article you will have a bigger and broader reason why listening is so important, and perhaps you will be more willing to make the effort to listen more effectively. The choice is up to you.
Here we go . . .
The reasons for being an effective listener go beyond the obvious and pragmatic idea of understanding the message of others. It even goes beyond the clear relationship-building that comes when people feel they are really being listened to. There are two other overlooked (or forgotten) reasons why listening is so valuable to both parties.
Listening shows we care.
I call this the meta-message of listening. The act of listening, of focusing our attention on the other person, of stopping other activities to really listen, lets people know they are important, and that we care about them. In fact, you could argue it is the single best action you can take to show your care and interest in another person.
You do care, right? So why aren’t you listening better?
Listening is a powerful way to influence others.
It seems paradoxical, but it is completely true. We think that we influence by having all the data, by being well prepared and rehearsed and knowing our stuff. All of this is important, but unfortunately all of that planning, passion, and preparation leaves us wanting to talk (and talk, and talk).
And the truth is that people are influenced for their reasons not ours. And as long as we are talking, we can’t know their reasons. (Tweet that.) When we stop talking and listen we can learn about their reasons, concerns, and even worries.
People are also influenced by more than the facts. Aren’t you more likely to be influenced by people that you know and trust, and people who care about you?
Of course you are – which takes us back to listening again, doesn’t it?
The Chinese proverb has it right – “To listen well is as powerful a means to influence as to talk well, and is as essential to all true conversations.”
Everyone knows that listening, real listening, is an important life skill. It is important for a variety of reasons, and perhaps now you see an even bigger, broader reason why.
My hope is that you use these facts to choose to listen more effectively, starting in your next conversation.