listen leadership

The Power of Listening

listen leadershipHave you ever had someone really listen to you? I mean stop what they’re doing, drop everything, and listen…to you? Remember how that made you feel?

I’ve asked that question to hundreds of people and I’m amazed at the responses I get. Here are just a few:

valued important trusted free
strong alive cared for empowered
confident brave smart meaningful

Wow. Imagine if you could create those effects in the people you’re trying to lead. Impossible? Beyond your capability? Hardly.

Every human being has the power to engender these emotions in others. Every human being can listen. It’s not always easy—there are thousands of things vying for your attention—but the ability is there. Here are a couple fundamental things you can do to become a better listener:

1. See. Before you can listen to someone you have to know they’re there. Not just their physical form as you walk by them, but the full weight of who they are and what they’re going through and what they have to offer. The first step to listening is truly seeing the people around you.

Try This: Instead of thinking of your day as a series of tasks you need to complete (as you probably already have), reframe your day by planning it out by the people you will encounter—family members, friends, bus drivers, waiters, bosses, clients, etc. Then spend the rest of your day looking for them.

2. Focus. At any given moment, your default focus is zeroed in on one person: Yourself. Nothing wrong with that, it just is. But if you’re going to lead others effectively, you must transfer your focus to others. Unless you feel safe with someone or find them fascinating, you must consciously choose to shift your focus to the other person.

Try This: Put yourself in the other person’s shoes as they speak, imagine the world from their perspective, hang on each word like they were the most important person in the world. Banish any hint of self while you listen—don’t worry about your point of view, your opinion or what you’re going to say next. Focus on experiencing what they’re sharing.

Listening is one of the easiest and most difficult things we can do. However, I can’t think of anything that has a more profound effect on people.

Have you ever had someone truly listen to you? How did it make you feel?

8 thoughts on “The Power of Listening”

  1. You are absolutely right. Its frustrating to talk to someone whose eyes, mind and body is engrossed in reading a newspapers or worse face the other way. I particularly value face to face talk. This shows the person is with you body and soul.

  2. Hi Geoff:

    Your thoughts are spot-on. I’ve observed that overdeveloped egos almost always have underdeveloped listening skills. You’ll also find that great leaders are predisposed to being extremely effective listeners. Interesting how that works…Thanks Geoff.

  3. It is interesting to me how very often we fail at using this basic skill, especially when we need it the most. How often do we, when engaged in debate or conflict, hear just enough of the other’s conversation to start working in our own mind on how we are going to challenge and counter their points immediately after they stop talking??

    I heard an interesting discussion the other day by Kathryn Schulz. She went through the three progressive stages of how we feel about the debating adversary as we express our own point – that they must be uninformed, then stupid and then be vindictive in not agreeing with our opinion. As we find out that they do have all the same the facts, and are really smart but still haven’t reached the same conclusion as us, then we assume a hidden agenda, yet we have completely failed to hear their points and have further failed to ask ourselves – “what if I’m wrong”. The fear of being wrong is likely the largest obstacle to overcome in effectively listening.

    How many conflicts would resolve themselves if we only spent enough time listening?

    1. Great thoughts, Aage. Think of how much more effective we could all be if we weren’t worried about our selves or making mistakes. And as you say, listening really is a simple skill—anyone can do it! Thanks for sharing.

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