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How Well Do You Listen?

Mar 02, 2023

There is so much to learn when you just listen.

The image above is the Chinese symbol called Ting. It illustrates all that’s involved when we’re completely engaged in the act of listening.

When we bring our hearts, minds, ears, and eyes into the exchange, we can truly hear the speaker. We become more intently engaged in what the other person is telling us.  We listen deeply for their meaning and intent.

We learned from Stephen Covey that most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.  They are filtering everything they hear through their own world view.  And so, one of his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People became “seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Developing this habit brings enormous value to building strong healthy relationships – both business and personal.

When you give someone your undivided attention, you are signaling to that person that they matter, that you value what they have to say, and that you respect them as a person. What can be more meaningful to someone than that?

Seeking to understand happens through the act of listening, active listening. That means really paying attention, giving one’s full and undivided attention to what the other person is saying.  How often have you experienced being listened to that way? And how often do you do listen to others like that?

Often, people are multitasking; partially listening while reading texts, processing emails, playing a video game, etc. This is not only distracting to the speaker, but also insulting.  It sends a clear message that they are not important enough to deserve your undivided attention. There is – or may be – something or someone more important.

For leaders, listening is a foundational skill.  Yet, when we test it, we find that none of us listens as well as we think we do.  Try listening to someone – without interrupting – and repeating back what they said or summarizing it. Hone your listening skills by listening just for facts, just for feelings, or just for values and beliefs –and then, check what you heard.  How often do you truly hear what the other person wants to convey? 

If you want to increase the impact you have on others, or your ability to be more influential with them, think about how well you listen to them. And practice listening with your ears, eyes, mind, and heart – your undivided focus and attention – as the symbol Ting suggests.

When we listen to others with the intent to understand them, we make the type of connection and solid foundation from which a healthy relationship becomes possible.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on listening fully. And do share this blogpost with others who can benefit by better listening.


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