January 1, 2010
When you see the power of good listening and practice key strategies every day, you will find that other people will trust you more, and that you will have great influence with them.
The Power of Listening
The foundation of good communication is good listening. This means that you will communicate badly with poor listening, and that you will be a great communicator with good listening. In fact, when you become a champion listener, you will become one of the most respected and influential people in the nation. You can become a powerful listener with your partner, children, family, friends, colleagues, and customers. Imagine what this could do for your life.
Share the Platform
There is an easy ebb and flow to good conversation. When someone speaks, another listens, and the speaking platform is shared. Good listeners and good conversationalists are more apt to listen than to speak, and when they speak, they do so briefly, without monologuing or conversation domination. In general, you should pay more attention to being a good listener than in trying to get your point across.
This doesn’t mean you don’t speak or speak carelessly. It’s a mind-set that you have to be first a better listener than a better speaker. You could be the Toastmaster’s world champion or sound like Winston Churchill, but if you are a poor listener, most people will eventually ignore you. Does this make sense?
Steps in Good Listening
To be a champion listener, you need to use and track the following steps, some of which are magical:
- Pay Attention. You concentrate and are not distracted. This shows up with good eye contact and body language.
- Express Appreciation. Say “I’m glad you brought this up,” because you want honesty and openness in your relationship.
- Summarize. “What I think I heard you say was….” This tells the speaker that you get all the main points of the message.
- Empathize. “I understand how you feel like that,” with no “buts’.” The speaker often wants to sense an emotional connection with you. Magic.
- Ask for Feedback. “Did I miss anything?” If you did, summarize what you already heard and add the new data. The speaker must be satisfied.
- Ask for More. “Is there anything else?” (about this issue) You give the speaker a chance to say everything that needs to be said. Magic.
- Pause. Pause briefly after each statement the speaker makes. This helps you to listen more deeply, and with more openness. Magic.
- Validate. State the truth you find in what you have heard, with no buts’at this time. Wait for some other time to make your own point. Magic.
- Make an Offer. “What I’d like to do for you is….” and you make a meaningful offer. Ask the speaker if that is satisfactory. Action is Magic.
Listening and speaking don’t always run smoothly, and you won't always use every step just described. So, you adjust: you correct yourself, revise your offer, make an apology, always giving as the listener. Sometimes the steps may have a different order; e.g. empathy and validation can be sprinkled in at various times.
Great listeners are loved, trusted, respected, and treasured. You can be one of those special people, but you need to work at this all the time. It gets easier as you go along. When you see the rewards, you are happy to put in any effort.
Here are some steps you can take right now to get yourself on the road to be an Olympian of Listening:
1st Make a short list of people who have said you don’t listen, or don’t always listen. Pick one person and make an appointment to ask “Is there anything that I have not listened to you about lately?” Use the steps as your guide.
2nd Pick three steps that you need improvement with, and work up a 3-week program to improve one, and then follow-up with the other two.
3rd Get the training and consultation that you need (as we all do) to improve your listening skills. You know the drill: books, seminars, modeling, therapists-coaches. Immense dividends will appear.