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Why Listening Is A Skill That Will Make You Powerful (Part 2)

    Click here to read Part 1.

     

    Why Listening Is A Skill That Will Make You Powerful (Part 2) Bloom Daily Blog Francesca Phillips

    What Listening Is/ Does

    “We should all know this: that listening, not talking, is the gifted and great role, and the imaginative role. And the true listener is much more believed, magnetic than the talker, and he is more effective and learns more and does more good. And so try listening. Listen to your wife, your husband, your father, your mother, your children, your friends, to those who love you and those who don’t, to those who bore you, to your enemies. It will work a small miracle. And perhaps a great one.” – Brenda Ueland
    Nancy Foster says, “Research shows that about 85% of what we communicate is nonverbal. This includes our posture, physical movements, eye contact and our psychological presence. So, when someone is speaking to you, is your posture inclined toward the
    speaker, so as to invite and encourage expression? Or is your back turned or your arms or legs tightly crossed, which discourages and cuts off involvement? Are you fidgeting or otherwise distracting the speaker or yourself? Are you making good eye contact with the person? By looking at and observing the speaker, not only will the speaker feel “attended” to, you will learn more about what is really important to him or her.”
    Interesting stuff right? Let’s continue and see how we can improve.

    How to Improve

    I recently interviewed Laura Nielson Denke, a therapist, about what it means to be a good listener. She lays out a basic definition of a good lis
    tener as follows:
    “Let us start with the principle that there will always be a Presenter and a Listener in any discussion. A good listener allows the presenter to talk without interrupting. The good listener asks questions to understand the presenter. The listener sticks with their role as a Listener until the presenter feels heard and understood.”
    Denke says, “You can be a better listener by first making an internal decision not to defend yourself. To listen with an open mind because you want to make your [coworker, spouse, friend] happy. The greatest love you can give anyone is allowing [them] to talk as long as needed. Without interruption and giving unconditional understanding.”
     
    Remembering this is a great first step. When your goal is to listen better you’re already halfway there.
     
    This is a quick and easy way to improve your connections at work and home. At no cost too.
    Below are 4 well-supported tips on how to put this in action:

    1. Be The Last to Speak

    Nelson Mandela said the best thing he learned from his father (a leader in his community) was to be the last to speak. By doing this, you’ll understand better where others are coming from. You’ll form a better personal opinion and response.
     
    This isn’t bad advice to follow in our own lives. Being the last to speak will help you understand the room’s concern, ideas, and where their heads are at. That way you can form and deliver your opinion in a way that is most effective.
     
    If someone’s upset, ask questions to make sure you understand where they’re coming from. Remember, people want to be heard. Making them feel heard will garner trust and connection.

    2. Assume the Best

    Even after you’ve nailed down these steps (look at you go!) there’ll still be difficult people to deal with. Whether it’s a customer, grumpy boss, or irritated lover it’s always best to assume the best. Sometimes you’ll be a listening rock star and won’t receive the same back. That’s ok!
     
    Your goal should be to give as much love and understanding to those you interact with. They’ll not only trust and like you but may aspire to listen like you do.
     
    Most people aren’t aware their listening skills are lacking. Others may have a bad day and need support more than anything. Find joy in being the best listener you can without expecting people to be the same. This is a valuable skill. One which will get you far.

    3. Be an Active Listener

    Active listening takes place when a listener focuses his full attention on the speaker, avoids interrupting the speaker, remains nonjudgmental and shows genuine interest in the speaker. In addition to hearing the words, full attention allows the listener to understand what’s being implied and read nonverbal clues such as body language and facial expressions that may contradict verbal words. Fully engaging in the discussion or conversation is one of the most important aspects of active listening. An open, inviting posture and occasional small verbal comments such as “yes” or “I understand” can help uncover the root of most problems. – by Jackie Lohrey on smallbusiness.chron.com
    Here’s a little test. Try listening for just one day to someone you are close to: your husband or wife, child or parent. Try really listening to a difficult business colleague or client. And when they finish, don’t let your self-assertion jump in with “yes, but…..”. Get rid of the word “but” altogether, it only serves to negate everything the person you are listening to has just said. Instead, if you do say anything, try asking “What else?” – How Important Is Listening, Really? By Christina Holbrook McEntee on Forbes.com

    4. Get mentally and physically present.

    The most important thing is to commit to being an intentional listener. This means putting your phone out of sight. Focusing on the speaker and not thinking about deadlines or to-dos. Be present.

    Lea McLeod says, “If you’re sitting behind a desk, where it might be tempting to multitask, shut your laptop and move papers to the side. This tells the other person that you’re ready for the conversation.”  

    Here’s a less obvious tip (at least for me):

    Physical movement is disrupting “Often, when you’re listening to someone, there’s a natural tendency to physically react to what he or she is saying, instead of simply letting it sink in. Perhaps you make a face, furrow your brows, or smile here and there. While you may think it demonstrates your interest in the conversation, all of these activities actually disrupt your ability to listen and the other person’s ability to be heard.” – Lea McLeod 
    What’s the best way to listen then?
    “Offer uninterrupted speaking time: Instead, I suggest using a technique that mediators use when they facilitate conflict: Give the other person uninterrupted speaking timeIt sounds simple, but here’s the catch: Your goal during this time is to listen with the intent of repeating back what’s said. When that is your objective, you’ll listen with a different intent (actually understanding what’s being said), instead of trying to interject your own thoughts. – Lea McLeod 

    5. Practice

    Start off by practicing the tips mentioned above. Work on being the last to speak. Assume the best and hide your phone and any distractions when speaking with someone. These seem simple but are tough. I’ve tried to focus on each one and found it to be difficult. Soon, these habits will be so automatic you’ll find people coming towards you like a magnet!

    Julian Treasure also gives 5 ways you can, on your own, increase conscious listening:
    Silence – spend 3 minutes a day to re calibrate to hear the quiet (Meditation is the perfect way to learn silence)
    The Mixer – how many individual channels can I hear in a noisy environment?
    Savory – enjoying mundane sounds. Washing machine, water boiling, etc
    Listening positions – most important. Look at the screenshot.
    Remember – receive, appreciate, summarize, ask

    Conclusion

    “Improved listening skills will set you apart as a colleague and leader, as others start noticing that you take them seriously in your conversations. Start taking these steps to up your listening game, and you’ll up your career game, too.” – Lea McLeod
    Listening skills aren’t developed over night. It takes time and practice. But I promise you, if you nail down these tips you will see a change both at work and home.
     
    Go easy on yourself if you mess up. The only way we grow is by starting somewhere. Each time you practice, take note of what went right and what could go better next time.
     
    The skill of connection is becoming lost among us tech savvy entrepreneurs. No matter what new advances happen in the world, nothing can replace true connection. Listening is a sure-fire way to connect, gain trust, and grow a community around you.

    Take Action

    Try working on Listening Tip #1 for a week. Once you have it down, practice #1 and #2 for the next week. Then keep adding until you’ve become a pro at all five steps.
    What touched you the most in today’s post? Which part do you want to start practicing today? Leave a comment below and let’s chat! Can’t wait to see you succeed.

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    Francesca Phillips

    Aside from being a wife, traveler, bookworm, and shop owner I’m a passionate writer. You can read my posts here on Bloom Daily or on Medium. Currently living in Los Angeles & Switzerland 🇨🇭.

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