Who do you think is more powerful when it comes to collaborative relationships: a good speaker or a good listener? Of course, many good speakers are also good listeners, but if you could select only one of these two attributes, which would you choose?
I would definitely choose the second for myself. In fact, I believe that good listening skills are the most important set of skills that an individual can possess. Of course, I am not referring to the ability to mindlessly listen to what somebody is saying and do exactly what they are telling you do. Rather, I mean the ability to listen critically. There are several very important steps that most critical, or active, learners go through during the listening process.
Simply listen – Listen to the words that the speaker is using. Fully focus on the message that the speaker is conveying. Do not think about what you are going to say next.
Repeat what the speaker has said, back to him/her – Of course, ask permission to do this. Everybody wants to know that they have been listened to. So, the very act of asking this question is helping to develop a deeper relationship with the speaker. During this repetition process, you, the active listener, have an opportunity to consider the reasons why the speaker said what he did. Test your assumptions and considerations by asking, “Did you say this because…” During this process, do not judge what the speaker has said.
Encourage the speaker to say more – After you feel that you have developed a deep understanding of what the speaker has said, probe for even a deeper understanding. To do this, you can ask open-ended questions – “Why?” is a particularly good one. If you really want to probe deeply ask this question repeatedly to help the speaker further and further uncover their thoughts. It is absolutely essential to do this with respect and true interest. However, if you are truly interested in what somebody is saying, it can be taken as a near-certainty that the speaker will want to talk.
While critical listeners have the ability to really get to know other people, as they listen to them, every successful salesperson knows that before a sale can be made, you must understand the needs and expectations of your customer. Listening is required to accomplish this objective. In his book, To Sell is Human, Daniel Pink argues that in the 21st Century everybody must sell. People sell ideas, invitations, their own knowledge and skills, and more. If Pink’s thesis is true, then everybody would benefit from learning the skills of critical listening.
At A Pass Educational Group, it is particularly important for us to be good listeners when interacting with our clients. For, as a company, we exist to help our clients bring their educational content visions to life. We interpret this as working with our clients to understand the specifications and objectives that they have for their educational content. In order to develop an understanding of our client’s specifications and objectives, it is crucial that we practice the habits of critical listeners.
What is the one most intriguing idea that you have ever heard because you were listening critically?