A few weeks ago, I ran across an interesting post from Seth Godin with the simple title, “How to Listen.” In the post, Seth explains that the listener has as heavy an obligation in a conversation as the speaker. After all, no idea is truly communicated if the person being spoken to is not listening. Listening is hard work and needs to be practiced.
Being a good listener is one of the most important skills you can master if you want to advance your career and build meaningful relationships. Whether you’re an employee, employer, husband, wife, father, mother, or friend, when you truly listen, you demonstrate your interest in what is being said, and you show respect for the individual saying it. Listening is a magnetic force that draws people to us.
If you want to become a better listener, here are three techniques to use in every conversation:
1. Be quiet.
Here is one of my favorite quotes from Stephen Covey: “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” If you want to be a better listener, be quiet. Don’t simply listen while you work to formulate a response. Listen to truly understand what the person is trying to say. Remember the old adage, seek first to understand, rather than to be understood.
2. Repeat what you heard to make sure you understood.
Is there anything worse than having someone get your drive-thru food order wrong? Most times, you don’t realize the error until you’ve already driven away. That’s why the people who take the time to repeat your order to you are so valuable. They take the extra step to ensure that 100 percent of your order is correct. If the fast-food industry understands this principle, why don’t we? After someone shares with you, repeat back what was said to be sure you understood. This not only helps you grasp what he or she is trying to say, but it also gives confidence that you’re truly listening.
3. Give them the benefit of the doubt.
Even if what they say doesn’t make sense to you at first, don’t write their idea off right away. Ask more questions. Seek to understand the “why” behind their idea. Doing so helps you get a full understanding for the reason they’re sharing their thought or idea in the first place. We all know what it’s like to share an idea with someone who isn’t giving us the benefit of the doubt. It’s one of the most discouraging things in the world. If you want to be a better listener, give people the benefit of the doubt when they’re sharing their idea (even if at first you think it’s terrible!). Just because they share an idea doesn’t mean you have to act upon it.