Listening may be the most important, yet least developed, skill for personal and professional success, especially in today’s fast-paced business climate.
Good listening skills can help you:
Many people take listening skills for granted, focusing instead on how to articulate their own views more effectively. This approach is misguided.
Power listening -the art of probing and challenging the information garnered from others to improve its quality and quantity -is the key to building a knowledge base that generates fresh insights.
In Power Listening: Mastering the Most Critical Business Skill of All (Portfolio Hardcover, 2012), Bernard T. Ferrari suggests four steps that form a good listening foundation:
Show respect. Our conversation partners often have the know-how to develop effective solutions. Part of being a good listener is helping them pinpoint critical information and see it in a new light. To harness the power of these ideas, you must fight the urge to “help” by providing immediate solutions. Learn to respect your partner’s ability to identify them.
Keep quiet. Get out of the way of your conversations so you can hear what’s important. Don’t hog the spotlight, try to prove your own smarts or emphasize how much you care. Speak only to underscore your conversation partner’s points. Your partner should speak 80 percent of the time, with you filling the remaining 20 percent. Make your speaking time count by spending most of it asking questions, rather than having your say.
Challenge assumptions. Too many high-caliber professionals inadvertently act like know-it-alls, remaining closed to anything that undermines their beliefs. Good listeners seek to understand – and challenge – the assumptions that lie below the surface of every conversation. Holding onto these assumptions is the biggest roadblock to power listening.
Maintain focus. Power listening requires you to help your conversation partner isolate the problem, issue or decision at hand. Discard extraneous details or emotions that interfere with homing in on what truly matters.
Recognize that all conversations have intellectual and emotional components. It’s important to “decouple” the two, according to Ferrari, as several emotions are guaranteed to hinder communication:
As with anger and fear, excitement can also distract you from asking the right questions and challenging underlying assumptions.
“The most exciting part is that, once you get good at listening, you will be able to do it easily, almost effortlessly, without even thinking about it,” Ferrari writes.
Practice these four power-listening steps to become the kind of listener others seek as a conversation partner. You’ll build valuable relationships, become more informed, make better decisions and come up with new innovative ideas.
I delight in working with those who want to improve their listening and interpersonal skills. I have a few spots available for October coaching. Call me right now.