Why do we admire celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Katie Couric, Diane Sawyer and Bill Clinton?
They make you feel like you’re the most important person in the room.
They excel at listening – a skill that separates great personalities from the near-great.
We spend 80 percent of our waking time on four communications tasks:
While listening accounts for 50 percent of our communications, we pay little attention to this important process and tend to take it for granted. We erroneously assume that listening is a passive activity and that everyone knows how to listen.
In fact, most of us find it hard to maintain the prolonged concentration required for truly effective listening. To be a good listener, you need to adopt proactive habits.
Listening, but Not Hearing
Consider this: We retain only 25 percent of what we hear. Why?
The average person speaks at about 130 words per minute. Our thinking speed is about 500 words per minute. Consequently, we jump ahead of what is actually being said. This causes our minds to wander, and we think about other things (such as what we’re going to say next).
Four common listening errors occur in our daily communications:
Why Don’t We Listen?
When you meet with your boss, an important client, a potential new friend or a love interest, you manage to listen without interrupting. You’re a paragon of attentiveness, asking all the right questions and paying attention to the answers. You make sure you don’t talk too much.
Highly successful people do this all the time. They’re automatically good listeners. They show they care by thinking before they speak, they listen with respect, and they respond appropriately.
The rest of us forget these basic civilities. We get distracted. We don’t take the time to practice the mental discipline of good listening in every personal encounter. We rank listening opportunities according to assigned importance and apply effort only when it benefits our careers or personal lives.
Test Your Listening Skills
Here’s a simple exercise for developing better listening skills from Marshall Goldsmith’s What Got You Here Won’t Get You There:
Close your eyes and count slowly to 50 with one simple goal: Do not let another thought intrude into your mind. You must concentrate on maintaining the count.
More than half the people who try this fail after counting to 20 or 30. Nagging thoughts enter the brain.
The more you practice Goldsmith’s exercise, the more success you’ll experience – and the better you’ll be able to focus attention on truly listening to another person.
9 Keys to Better Listening
Keep the following goals in mind when practicing good listening skills:
I delight in working with those who want to improve their listening and interpersonal skills. I have a few spots available for August coaching. Call me right now.