Boosters : Listen Up

Are you a good listener? I’ve been told I am. Apparently my ability to really listen to what’s being said – the words, the meaning, the sentiment – and then play back to the person a succinct and accurate version of what I’ve just heard is impressive.

It’s not easy though. We hear what the other person says, and our minds scurry off to find stories and experiences of our own that are similar to the one we have just heard. Then when we’ve located them we are listening anew. Not to hear what’s being said but to hear when there is a break or a pause – so that we can tell our story or make our point or ask our question.

And this approach can make for fast-moving, sometimes unfinished, often amusing conversations between people. But there are times when it pays to truly listen to the other person, to understand more deeply their perspective and to give them the gift of your undivided attention.

Listen up

If you’d like to become a better listener try these things

  1. Listen for language – Noticing the language that they use, the words they choose, the phrases they mention and repeating these back to them when you speak is a powerful way of showing you are listening and deepening the connection between you.
  2. Ask questions – to clarify your understanding, to delve a little deeper, to challenge their thinking – whatever your driver, the fact that you are asking questions demonstrates your engagement in them and in the topic.
  3. Hold the silence – the very act of saying things aloud causes us to formulate our thoughts more cohesively than if they remained floating around in our minds. This in itself can cause the speaker to understand, consider and reflect more than they may have done had they not articulated them. Allowing a silence to exist whilst they process this can be very helpful.

Listening is one of the most under-rated skills in leadership, in my opinion, yet one that can transform capability and performance.

If you’d like to explore this topic further, try Otto Sharmer’s work on generative listening and theory u.

For more tips like this one or to access more in-depth blogs on these and other subjects, visit