Listening Shows You Care

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In order to be the best leader you can be, you have to be an excellent communicator. Communication is a two way street. In addition to how well you are able to explain what you’re thinking and relaying information you want to get across, communication is about listening. Listening shows you care. A Turkish Proverb states “If talking is silver, then listening is gold.”

New Distractions, More Information

As simple as it sounds, being an excellent listener is actually very difficult and takes a lot of practice. There is so much noise to get in the way, especially nowadays with so many new gadgets like mp3 players, Blackberries, iPhones, Facebook Mobile, and Twitter. After all, it is almost 2010. Technology is improving more quickly and there is much more information to be gathered because of the increased accessibility. But, that doesn’t mean our listening skills have to be sacrificed.

You can usually tell when you’re talking with someone and they aren’t giving you their full attention. The signs are noticeable. For example, their eyes wander, they don’t participate in the conversation, or what they do say isn’t quite on point. Have you ever been talking to someone and they look down at their phone during a conversation? I’m guilty of it too. Sometimes I don’t hear my text message alert, or don’t feel my phone vibrate in my pocket, so I often check it to see if I’ve missed something.

I’ve been trying to work on that lately. It may not seem like a big deal, but it is. Small things like that send big messages. Checking your phone sends the message that you’re bored, not interested, or not paying attention. It’s difficult to not check my phone, but I know its important because I don’t want to send the message that I’m not interested to the person I’m with.

To be a great leader, when with someone, you must give them your full attention. Being a good listener involves hearing what the other person is saying while putting it in context to fully understand what that person is trying to communicate. Try to put yourself in their shoes to see where they are coming from. So often failures in communication result from different interpretations of the same sentence. That’s no ones fault, we all have different experiences and knowledge that shape the way we think and view things. But, if you are aware that there may be communication errors along the way, you will listen that much more closely.

A couple of years ago I was chatting with an acquaintance of mine. We had only talked briefly a couple of times before this certain occasion. During one of these previous conversations, I remembered talking about how her sister was getting married soon. So I asked her how the wedding went and where the honeymoon was. The reason this memory stands out to me is because when I asked her about it she smiled really wide and said “I can’t believe you remembered that!” She was really excited to tell me how the wedding went and I was happy to hear it. This one conversation solidified in my mind how important listening (and memory) are in building relationships, and ultimately in leadership.

Practicing active listening takes time and requires patience. It’s a skill that needs to be practiced, but is well worth having. By actually listening to someone you are telling them that you are genuinely interested and care. Listening is the best way to learn about someone and understand them. It’s how you build solid relationships with people. The only way you can learn about someone and know who they are is to listen to them. This is an essential part of leadership. In order to lead someone, they have to want you to lead them.