October 9, 2018
I recently spent the weekend with my two young nephews who wanted to know what my super power was. My youngest nephew could make himself invisible, my other nephew could swim at great speed and my daughter could fly. I said mine was being a good listener. They scoffed and told me that wasn’t a super power because everyone can listen…
The fact is, everyone can listen, but not everyone does. As a mom to a young child, I find myself often reminding my daughter to “be a good listener!” This constant reminder feels necessary because her young mind is working so quickly that she often fails to stop talking or consider what people around her have to say. I tell her that, “a conversation requires two people – one who listens and one who talks, taking turns.”
As I try to teach my daughter about the art of conversation, it has occurred to me that listening is not innate, and young or old, it is a super power to be cultivated for personal and professional gain.
As professional communicators, there is a lot to be gained by truly listening to someone when they talk. Not only does listening provide real-time feedback to an idea shared or an issue to solve, but it is also an opportunity to read between the lines and learn more about where a person is coming from. Many times, I find that when I listen, I hear things that aren’t being said. It’s these things that help me better understand client’s needs, even if they haven’t been expressly communicated. Through those conversations, I am able to collect knowledge that helps me help my clients and co-workers.
It may seem contradictory, but listening is not a passive process – it is active. It doesn’t mean that to be an active listener, you can’t speak. In life, people think they are listening, but really, they are waiting to talk. Oftentimes during conversations, one person’s statement triggers a listener to have their own thoughts to share. To earn respect of those you work with, it is important that rather than telling your own story you are asking questions and encouraging the other speaker to tell you more. Respect is earned by people who think before they speak, and listen before they act, rather than push their own agenda.
Listening facilitates engagement. When we give our full attention to people, they are likely to share information and feelings that help us understand how to best interact and provide them with what they need to be successful. The more we can listen and deliver on the knowledge we collect from these interactions the stronger the relationship becomes. Once we build on the respect we’ve earned, others see us as a person who cares about them and takes their needs seriously. When we are able to take what we hear and turn that knowledge into creative ideas that met their needs, we solidify the long-term relationship as a partner that has a unique understanding of their business.
Everyone wants to be heard, but not everyone knows how to listen. Learn how to listen and your powers will be limitless.