The Importance of Being a Good Listener and Not Just a Wise Talker
Are you listening? Or more specifically, are you an effective listener? Many people are plugging their ears with iTunes, iPhones, videos, radio, TV, etc….passively receiving data. These activities have their place. But if that’s the only way that we listen, then we may risk becoming “absurd,” which from Latin literally means “deaf.” So, how are you listening?
This got me to thinking about a client meeting that I had recently. I’m working with a very capable leader who is in a critical, new client interface role. We were talking about this very thing: the importance of being a good listener and not just a wise talker. I asked him if he has a “listening strategy.” Here’s what I mean:
1. Know The Objective: What’s the purpose of the conversation? Is the person seeking advice? Do they simply want to vent? Do they want to brainstorm with you in a give and take? You may need to ask them specifically what they’re wanting from the conversation. Don’t assume and start jumping in with advice.
2. Listen Thoughtfully; Receive the Data: Really take in the speaker’s content. What are they saying on the surface? Do you sense any underlying themes that are implied but are not being stated directly? Look at the speaker. Engage their eyes gently, but not invasively. Genuinely receive from them. Resist the temptation to simply be waiting to jump in with your next comment.
3. Ask Thought-Provoking Questions: In most situations, the goal isn’t simply to impart knowledge. Ideally, in the coaching context, I want people to think for themselves. Part of my job is to stimulate their thinking. Asking thoughtful questions does that. Use the data you’re receiving to dig deeper. Powerful questions help the listener discover and better own the solutions.
. Provide Timely, Wise Comments/Insights: There are definitely times to be directive. But resist the temptation to go there quickly. Before giving directives, ask permission. “May I give you some feedback?” “Would you like to hear my thinking?” Keep your thoughts concise. Avoid lecturing. Really, it’s far more impactful than your verbal stream of consciousness.
Some people ask, “What’s the secret to being a good coach?” I’m not sure that there’s a silver bullet. But if there is one, keen listening skills might be it.