One of Winston Churchill’s quotes comes to mind when I think about the topic of listening:
“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak;
courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”
When we listen, we do so for a variety of reasons. We listen with the intent to understand, to learn, to gain information, or to be entertained. So with all these reasons, why do so many people struggle with their listening skills? Sure, people are busy, they think they know what the other person is going to say and more often than not, they aren’t really paying attention.
How could your personal and professional life change if you became a really good listener? Well, for starters, it can improve productivity, it can improve your ability to influence others, and you will become a much better negotiator and persuader.
My role as a coach is to ask questions and listen to the answers. I have to listen carefully and sometimes I have to listen to what is not being said. It’s a skill that is continuously developing! I sometimes want to interrupt and give my opinion or a piece of advice; however, if I interrupt, I may change the line of thinking a client is pursuing and that is not giving my client my best coaching. When I listen I have to do so with an open mind, I have to practice what is called “active listening.” This means I listen to the words and more importantly I must listen with the intent of understanding the meaning of the message I am receiving. I cannot allow myself to be distracted, I can’t allow myself to start solving their problem, I can’t allow myself to lose focus, and I certainly can’t interrupt.
When you listen, are you practicing “active listening?” This doesn’t mean saying, “uh-huh!” It means you’re paying attention, you might mirror the communication (what I hear you saying is…), you’re listening with an open mind (no judgement), you’re listening with optimism, and you’re doing all of this w/out formulating your response before the person is done talking. Yep, that takes courage alright! How courageous will you be with your listening skills?