The Art of Listening
By David Levy
Stanford Payne, an executive and business coach, recently wrote about the art of listening.
He says that Steven Covey wrote that most people do not listen to understand but rather they listen to reply.
Which one is you and which one do you want to be?
It is evident from social media today and from blogs that people like to be heard, even by people they do not know. The same applies to your employees, to your customers and to your friends.
Effective listening is an essential skill that good leaders need to have.
The International Listening Association shows that fewer than 2% of professionals ever receive specific training to improve their vital listening skills No business schools specifically teach it and there are few courses available to allow you develop this skill.
The standard thinking is that listening benefits the speaker more than the listener. However, consider that listening allows you to develop fresh insights and ideas. Effective listening opens many doors to new avenues - new customers, a wider circle of friends, bright opportunities and it boosts most of the people who are being heard.
Payne suggests three strategies to becoming a great listener:
Be people focused
Be respectful of others' unique value and input. Let them know how important they are and that you want to listen to them. Validate what you hear. Be patient because you are working with people. Be a good sounding board. Bright people often need their sounding board for confirmation of the appropriateness of an idea.
Listen more than you talk
It's often been said that we received two ears and only one mouth for a reason. You will be surprised how differently you hear when you apply the 80/20 rule (listen 80% and talk 20%)
Clarify what you hear and what you understand. Good listeners make sure that they understand what they have heard and what lies beneath the words that were used. Listening is not always about agreeing. Use the opportunity to challenge assumptions and to ask probing questions. Your questions will lead to answers which generate a conversation, one of the positive outcomes of effective listening.
Some of the great ideas came from people who really listened. Their dream may even have come from something that someone did not say - they listened enough to hear that too!
In today's world of smart phones, texting and video communication, it may be good to remember that it has been said that "You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time."
It's a challenge - to really listen, understand and be heard.