Whenever someone tells me they think I’m a good listener, I take that as a massive compliment. People who know me are more likely to describe me as a talker. I’m the first one to admit I have good and bad days. But even though I like to talk, I love to listen just as much.

Listening is one of those skills that is highly underrated. It’s not always easy: It requires you to pay attention, be in the moment and concentrate and focus on the other person.

It’s interesting to realise that a lot of training in the workspace is focused on presentation skills and being heard; on talking. We are convinced you need to be a good speaker to become more influential or improve your leadership skills. We like to think that if we talk better, people listen better, and we’ll be heard. I’m not denying it helps to be eloquent, but have you ever considered that a big part of being heard has to do with the ability to listen?

Let me take a moment to make you realise how important listening is.

Do you recognise that feeling when you’re in a meeting or part of a conversation and you desperately want the opportunity to talk because you have an opinion on the subject? Do you also recognise that you stop listening and start focussing on the opportunity to talk and what you’ll say? You’re listening to respond instead of listening to understand. Your opportunity to chip in becomes much more important to you than whatever else is being said in that conversation until you’re allowed to share your thoughts.

Ah, there is your opportunity to speak up. And while you talk, people listen. Just like you did in the last 5 minutes when you were waiting for your turn to chip in, right?

Assuming quite some of us have found ourselves in a similar situation, it’s kind of worrying how ineffective a lot of conversations are. Let’s assume the majority of the people on that call are wired the same way you are: how effective was that conversation? What a waste of time!

Let’s look at it from a different angle.

Don’t you love it when someone brings up something you told them a while ago and asks you for an update on it? Especially if it’s someone who you don’t talk to on a regular basis? And do you catch yourself saying: I can’t believe you remembered that!

It’s a good feeling when someone shows interest and gives you attention. It might automatically motivate you to listen back (because how awkward is it when you can’t return the favour of asking after something they shared with you?).

Why is it considered exceptional to remember what someone tells you? Why are we surprised when we realise someone actually listened to what we shared with them? And what would happen if we would all make a more conscious effort to be better at listen to each other?

Although it all seems to be common sense, how often do you catch yourself being distracted in a meeting or conversation? I would like to challenge you to try and become a bit more concious of it. Then try to pull yourself back into active listening mode to give people the confidence they’re being heard.

The below video is a quick how-to guide on active listening:

Recommended reads:

You’re not Listening; Kate Murphy

How to win friends and influence people; Dale Carnegie

The Seven Habits of highly effective people (Habit 5); Stephen Covey

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Carola van der Sommen

I’m Carola, I love my job and like to share what I learn. In my spare time I like to explore, wander, wonder, take pictures, eat nice food, drink good coffee and wine and read books.

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