I want to become a better listener. No, I need to become a better listener. And you do too! Your ability to listen—to genuinely, selflessly listen—is what will allow you to build rapport with strangers, to forge meaningful relationships, to expand your influence, and ultimately your opportunity to contribute to others’ lives.
I’m sure I’ve omitted a bevy of additional benefits to improving this skill, but my hope is that these five tasty morsels will have you hungry to purposefully improve your desire and ability to listen. After all, step one to communicating well is to LISTEN!
Listen to Learn About Others.
The obvious yet overlooked reality is that if you take the time to truly listen intently to someone, you will learn about them. Obvious? Perhaps. Immeasurably valuable? Absolutely! The deeper our understanding of a person, the greater our ability to reach into their lives, to meet them exactly where they are and make an impact. What are their ambitions? What are they afraid of? What do they hope for? You can’t learn this information without purposeful listening.
Listen to Learn About the World.
Probably only slightly less obvious is the fact that you’ll learn about the world around you. When was the last time you said in a rising falsetto, “You learn something new every day!” A mark of truly great people is their awareness of the limits of their knowledge. People around you have more than just interesting trivia to share; they have completely different worldviews. Their experiences have been so vastly different from yours that you should be hanging on their every word in the hopes of learning ever more about what the world looks like from another perspective.
Listen to Endear Yourself (Make Friends!)
Another lovely side effect of expending the energy to listen selflessly is that it will almost always endear you to people. I’m not saying to use this as a manipulative tool, but the fact is, in some form or fashion—whether it’s the pretty girl at the bar, your boss, or a customer—you are selling either yourself or something at all times. You want agreement. You want affection, admiration, a sale, approval. Wouldn’t it be a lot easier if, say… that person decided they like you?
Listen to Manage Your Pace and Increase Confidence.
Listening intently, having patience, waiting your turn, this activity serves to help you manage your pace when speaking. If you speak with a measured pace, no interrupting or talking over someone, no fear of gaps in the noise, you will appear—and will probably be—more confident, more in control of your thoughts and words, you’ll appear to be a person who is comfortable with him or herself. I don’t know about you, but I really like those kinds of people.
Listen to Stand Out.
Lastly, take the time to listen, to suppress the desperation to be heard at all times and to put first a genuine interest in someone else, and you will, with ease, differentiate yourself from the world around you. I work in real estate. I ended up working with a family who told me succinctly why they gave up the monetary incentives of a relocation company and worked with me instead. “You really listened to us.” That’s all it took. My genuine listening was literally worth a few thousand dollars to them.
The great news is that listening is a skill that can be improved. So you’re talkative? That’s okay, so am I! (Just ask my very tolerant wife.) Just like any skill, if you put time and effort into it, you will improve, and you will reap the rewards.
BONUS: If you’re still not convinced, here’s reason #6. Listening can act as a very effective safety net for those of us prone to feasting on our proverbial feet. Take the time to listen and, to be blunt, you’ll probably say a lot less stupid stuff.