Listen. It might be the most important thing you do.

Did you know you need to use more than just your sense of hearing to truly listen? When you want to understand the full picture of what is being communicated to you, it is sound, smell, eyesight, presence and position that can influence the type of information you receive and the way it reaches you.

I am a bit ashamed to say that I have discovered the superpower listening is only of late. To say I master it, would be boastful and not true. I touch upon it sometimes and its magic always leaves me wanting for more. Until I really want to get my own point across regardless, of course.

In a conversation about listening today, I realised however that I have shifted from believing that the only way I could come across as worth anyone’s time was to have all the answers, to understanding that going into any meeting with the intent to listen fully and actually putting all of my effort behind that is the key.

When I sit down across from someone and there is no agenda on the table except for the topic of conversation, when I am fully present and manage to quiet the voices in my head that shoot answers every second to what I think I hear, I enter a new realm, that of real connection. Everyone wants to be heard. Everyone wants to feel important, even if for a few minutes. It is one of the greatest signs of respect and one of the most generous gifts to offer.

Many communicators try to make themselves look smart.  Great listeners are more interested in making their audiences feel smart. They help people approach their own views with more humility, doubt and curiosity.  When people have a chance to express themselves out loud, they often discover new thoughts.

As a writer E.M. Forster put it, ‘How can I tell what I think till I see what I say?’ That understanding made Forster and unusually dedicated listener. In the words of one biographer, ‘To speak with him was to be seduced by an inverse charisma, a sense of being listened to with such intensity that you had to be your most honest, sharpest and best self.’

What a wonderful turn of phrase to capture the magnetic quality of a great listener.  Think about how rare that kind of listening is. 

Among managers rated as the worst listeners by their employees, 94 percent of them evaluated themselves as good or very good listeners.[…]  In one poll, a third of women said their pets were better listeners than their partners.  […] It’s common for doctors to interrupt their patients within 11 seconds, even though patients may need only 29 seconds to describe their symptoms

Think Again, Adam Grant, pg. 158

Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

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