The most successful and influential people tend to be the best listeners
"The deepest principle of human nature is the craving to be appreciated." William James, American psychologist and philosopher (1842–1910)
Are you listening?
Or are you waiting for your turn to talk? Do you take the time to see the speaker’s world through his or her eyes? A primary activity of love is listening. We must temporarily suspend our judgments and be fully present for the other person, be in the moment. Buddhists call this state ‘mindfulness’. What if you listened to others so deeply that they felt loved, accepted and safe in your presence, no matter what they had to say?
They are on opposite sides, each trying to win. Listening needs to be cooperative not competitive, helpful rather than harmful. Conversations are frustrating when you care only about your agenda, when you feel your ego is threatened or when you are too stubborn to hear what others are saying.
Not listening causes pain in personal and professional relationships—conflicts, misunderstandings, arguments, lost business and hurt feelings.
Listening is a mental and emotional process
You gain understanding, trust and rapport. You learn about another’s true concerns. The first step to effective listening is to become quiet. Sometimes it’s best to walk away from a conversation if you can’t be mindful.
Effective listening requires you search for the message behind the message. When someone is angry, what’s behind the anger? When someone is joyful, what’s behind that emotion?
Ask and listen
When people share a concern or problem, they may not expect you to have a solution. They want someone to listen, to understand and to care. You have to want to listen and that’s not easy.
1. Pay attention. Fight off distractions. They are external such as surrounding sounds and the speaker’s clothes. They are internal such as thinking about what you’ll say next, jumping to conclusions. You have to concentrate to not be distracted.
2. Acknowledge you’ve paid attention. Empathize. Understand, not necessarily agree. This creates a climate of trust and rapport. Employ golden silence. You can reflect with pauses such as, “I see,” or “Oh”. Try to acknowledge the emotional message the person is sending. “It sounds like you’re upset about this.” “You’re raising an important point.” “It must hurt to be treated that way.” It’s not so much that you pinpoint how that person feels, but explain what you perceive. The other person can then affirm or correct your perception.
3. Clarify what the person means. Ask open questions such as “Can you tell me more?” “I’d like to understand your frustration. What else is troubling you?” “So, your concern is…”
4. Respond. Suggest options and alternatives. Provide resources. Agree to take action. Encourage with comments such as “What do you plan to do about it?” Respond with few words rather than many.
The quality of our relationships determines the quality of our lives. Listening is how we show we care. Empathetic listening may seem time-consuming but it will save time in the long run and improve relationships.
Empathy -- noun, Identification with and understanding of another's situation, feelings, and motives
Synonyms: commiseration, compassion, condolence
Etymology: Greek, literally ‘to suffer with'
Inspired by a very small book, ‘Listening for Success: How to Master the Most Important Skill of Network Marketing’ by Steve Shapiro.