Listening Well

Dr. John Townsend

December 16, 2017

Successful people generally share several key traits. One of those is being a good listener.

But, how do you become a good listener? It doesn’t happen overnight and there’s no magic switch.

Start by taking the initiative to enter the point of view of those around you. That is the essence of good listening and a form of empathy. It’s just a basic human need, like air or water. It is the art of understanding how others experience reality.

You have to get out of your opinion and into theirs, at least temporarily. This is hard work for anyone because you have to wear both hats. These tips will help you be a great listener:

  • Ask someone how they’re doing. Don’t wait for them to come up and tell you what’s going on.
  • Ask open-ended questions. For example, “How’s it going?” is better than, “things are good, right?”
  • Ask a few times. Ask follow-up questions. That conveys you really want to hear their experience and they are much more likely to tell you what’s really going on.
  • When you get the info, find how they feel before providing a solution. Instead of, “OK, try this solution”, say, “That must be frustrating” or “I’d be overwhelmed myself” or “That would bug me too.” You have just entered a place inside their heads where few people go and you have now become a significant person for them.
  • Don’t worry that listening means agreement. Many people hesitate in listening because they are concerned the person will think, “Great, you agree with me.” If that is true, you need to deal with that person’s attitude of entitlement. But most of the time, people don’t assume that. You can say “That’s a tough situation” and later in the same conversation say, “I think you dropped the ball” and both are true.
  • Don’t give advice until you know they need it. My experience is that, over half the time, if you listen well and support, people are smart enough to solve their own challenges, and your “being there” was all they needed.

Let TownsendNOW help open your eyes and ears.


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