The Art (and Work) of Listening

I talked about listening as a key action that can help build trust (full post here) but wanted to dive in a bit deeper because it is so important.

I think we’ve all heard that we should be a good listener, right?

  • Listen to your school teacher
  • Listen to your parents
  • Listen to your significant other
  • Listen to your boss
  • Listen to a friend

…and the list goes on.

Listening truly is one of the most important ways we can build relationships, and lead effectively.

I am reminded of this blog post by Lolly Daskal, which I first read a few years ago.  The whole post isn’t very long, but I want to share a few highlights:

1) The most basic human need is to understand and to be understood.

2) The essence of listening is in silence:

Do not judge

Do not question

Do not fix

3) For many, being silent feels like being inactive. But listening is the act of paying attention, the act of consideration.

…all of which are such insightful points about listening.  Think about each one for a minute.  Such good stuff.  I agree completely with all three!  Leadership and trust are built on this understanding.

So why, then, don’t more people listen?  Why is this such a difficult skill to master?

My simple response:  it is a difficult skill to master because it’s hard.  If it were as easy as it appears (and let’s be honest, it looks quite easy – just sitting there while the other person talks), everyone would feel understood by everyone they talked to.

Not only is it hard to do, but it’s hard to practice, and hard to master.  Much like any other skill – speaking  a language, playing an instrument, learning a programming language – it takes diligent effort and attention to master.

But the good news?  You can get better at it, and you will improve with practice.

How, exactly?

Just start!

Pick one person, one conversation, and have a conversation with them in which you just listen.  Only listen.  Ask questions to clarify and understand, but let them do all of the talking.

Listen.  Do it well once, then do it well again.  One conversation at a time.  One person at a time.

At work, maybe you can challenge yourself this week to undertake a conversation with someone you lead (perhaps even someone with whom you are trying to build trust & confidence).  See if this act of listening helps you gain traction in building your relationship.  Use the description above – don’t just listen to respond, listen to learn & understand.

Remember, there will be times (maybe more than we realize) where we should simply listen.  Don’t judge, don’t question, don’t fix.  Just listen!


One thought on “The Art (and Work) of Listening

  1. Pingback: The single hardest thing about management… | Real. Simple. Leadership.

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