The Power of Listening

The other day, my friend asked me “What do you think are my greatest strengths?” and after I took the time to reflect and thoughtfully replied, he said “Oh sorry, I received this text. What did you say?”

Distraction dominates everywhere (even when you initiated a conversation on something you care about!) and taking the time to authentically listen can be such a pain when there are more important items to work on. Right!? However, have you ever considered the price of poor listening and how it affects your professional and personal life?

Here’s a quick test to gauge your listening skills with the 80/20 rule. In your last conversation, how often were you talking and listening? If you were talking for 80% of the time and only listening for 20% then you my friend, need to listen better! Instead, strive to listen for 80% of the time and talk for 20% of the time.

Effective listeners tend to be better leaders, learners and lovers. Studies have shown that we spend 9% writing, 16% reading, 30% speaking and 45% listening. Most people are unaware that listening is a communication skill that we use most frequently. But, most of us suck at listening!

In our society, we tend to place much more emphasis on speaking. We associate fame with keynote addresses, leadership with how you can state your ideas during meetings and wealth by delivering the perfect pitch to win over investors. You can win with speaking but what can you do with listening? Listening is not sexy.

If you can remember one thought from reading this article, it’s this:

People might be impressed by how well you speak, however, the people that actually matter in your life care about how well you listen.

The good news is that we can improve our listening skills by learning how to listen to ourselves and others by devoting time to some TLC — Tender Listening Care!

TLC for Yourself

Taking the time to pause and listen to your thoughts can help you understand what’s going on around you. We often ask others “How are you doing today?”, yet we forget to ask ourselves that same question “How am I doing today?”

“The world is giving you answers each day. Learn to listen.” -Anonymous

You might have seen this before. Sync your breath to this. Do it three times. Then answer the question “How am I doing today with work, relationships and overall life”?

You can answer in your mind, reflect through journaling or tell a friend. Sometimes, a message might come to you in unexpected ways, you just have to learn how to listen.

TLC for Others

One month ago, during a meeting I couldn’t help but notice this person who seemed interested in what everyone else was saying. When someone was speaking, she would sit on the edge of her chair with a thoughtful look. She kept eye contact and sometimes nodded. She was listening. When it was my turn to speak, she did the same for me. I felt that I mattered. I felt an immediate sense to want to talk and connect with her.

How does it feel when someone really listens to you? It probably made you feel important. One of the best gifts we can offer to others is the gift of our undivided attention by listening. In order to listen more effectively, here are three quick hacks:

  1. Turn both of your feet to the speaker (Yes, just do it! Your eyes, body and ears will be facing the speaker)
  2. Shut up 🙂
  3. Ask a question about what the other person said or share a story that relates with what they were talking about. (Don’t offer any unsolicited advice unless they ask for it!)

Rinse and Repeat. Treat others like they are the most important person in the world by listening to them.

If you are stressed and have a billion things on your mind, take five minutes to listen to your thoughts and see what is bugging you. If you are in a conversation and have the urge to state your opinion, wait till the person is finish talking. Taking the time to listen to yourself and other can truly change your life.

Interested in learning more about listening? Check out my TEDx talk: Listening Matters.

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