Listening is part of charisma. People who really listen are wonderful to be with—because they make us more interesting and full of life.
Have you noticed that when you’re with someone who laughs at your jokes that you become funnier? Great listeners pull out your most positive, creative energy! When I’m with my best friends I can be hilarious.
Think of a time someone helped you express more deeply by listening to you. What happened? When was the last time you did that for someone else?
Listening is More Powerful than Talking
One of the roles I love most at Interact is being a video coach. After an on-camera session, each individual slips into a private room with me to watch their video. I don’t tell them what to look for. I ask them what they are seeing and I listen deeply. This creates the environment that allows people to express insights.
I am honored to have breakthrough conversation with our clients on a regular basis. I am a listener who opens the door for greater self-awareness within the learner.
Here are five ways you can become an empowering listener:
- Don’t fake it. Good listeners have a high regard for people. Practice knowing that everyone has something important and interesting to say. Surrender just a couple of minutes to being available.
- Greet people warmly and use your eyes to connect. Never under-estimated the impression you make within seconds of meeting someone. You can communicate interest or ambivalence.
- Ask great questions that go to your curiosity and sincere interest. Be like a reporter, writing a fascinating paper on that person.
- Be aware of your body language that might suggest you’re leaning in the other direction, preparing to walk away. Let people know you’re happy to be right there with them in that moment.
- Offer an insight or two of your own to demonstrate that you’re hearing them
What people say about not being heard
Listening is the electric chord that connects us, but we’d rather be talking, texting, working, shopping and doing other things. It seems we’ll do anything, so long as it doesn’t require stopping to listen. I think this is because we think of listening to people as being passive or inactive, when our culture values doing.
In our workshops, we invite people to pair up and participate in an exercise that demonstrates how communicators “run out of gas” when their listener suddenly looks away, disengages and pulls out their smart phone. When we ask the speaker how it felt when their listener looked away, the responses include:
- “I lost my train of thought”
- “I felt discounted”
- “I was unable to continue”
Don’t overlook the power of listening. When you need to influence a course of action, think before you send another email. A private, face-to-face meeting is the most direct mode of communication. If the stakes are high enough, the cost of airfare can be worth the right result. Show up in person and listen.
I love to listen to people at work, at parties and in chance encounters. I may not do it 24/7, but listening is part of who I am. I invite you to become a listener, too.