Are you a good listener? How do you know? Unless you have had people sincerely tell you that you are a good listener, chances are you are not. Most leaders at all levels are challenged with being good listeners, and it’s not because they think listening is an underrated talent. It’s because they already believe they’re doing a fine job of listening.
The problem with listening is that when we hear someone talk we think we are listening. This isn’t true. We hear words and noise. We listen when we think about and comprehend what the other person is saying.
So why is listening such a challenge? Here are three common barriers and three attractive qualities of listeners.
Barrier: Too Smart to Listen
It’s hard to be patient with the process of listening and involving others if you think you already know the right answer. After all, when you know the answer (or think you know), why waste time listening to another person’s point of view? Even if you are right, that isn’t an excuse not to listen to other points of view. You still might learn something. Listening allows leaders to grow and teach their people. And if you’re not a leader, you’re going to have a hard time gaining influence with others if you never listen.
Quality: The 80/20 Rule
Great listeners spend most of their time asking questions and listening to others’ responses. Ask questions and listen 80% of the time and talk 20% of the time.
Barrier: A Selfish Attitude
A selfish listener thinks, “This doesn’t impact me. I’m bored. Hurry up because I’m ready to talk.” Listeners with a selfish mindset interrupt, care only about getting their point across, make statements rather than ask questions, and feel they must compete with the other person to get their view across instead of completing their view with the other person.
Quality: A Selfless Attitude
A selfless listener, on the other hand, concentrates on the other person’s point of view, realizes her listening makes her better, asks great questions, desires to learn from others and understands that listening creates learning beyond the conversation.
Barrier: Busy Schedule and Busy Brain
Having multiple issues, worry, or stress in your head makes listening very difficult. Try to isolate your issues and put them aside when you need to prioritize quality listening time for another person.
Quality: Listening with Humility
I had an opportunity to engage in a one-on-one conversation this week with an emerging leader. We were discussing her growth, and she was very aware of the fact that she wanted to become a better listener. She doesn’t interrupt and she has eye contact when engaged in conversation, so I was a bit surprised. What impressed me was how she analyzed her listening challenge. She felt like she needed to be more humble! Wow! She went on to explain that she needed to listen with humility so she could become open to what the other person was saying. Because her self-awareness is so keen she is already well on her way in making this transition. Do you listen with humility?
The funny thing about listening is it solves a lot of problems. So often people just want you to listen. It’s refreshing and it’s therapeutic. Don’t you want to be listened to? Then focus on returning the favor to others. Make it a belief and a habit to have a humble, selfless listening style.