The art of listening

The art of listening

I recently interviewed several CEOs for a film we are producing, “The Power of Advice.” One of the themes that came out of those discussions was the importance of good listening skills. 

In the view of many, listening is becoming a lost art. In an effort to be more efficient and technology-savvy, people are spending less time face-to-face. This is impeding listening capabilities. Most professional negotiators will tell you that you can learn invaluable information about a situation through situational and non-verbal cues. Unfortunately, email can’t replace context, tone, attitude, posture and many other nuances of listening. 

I recommend the following:

  • Educate yourself on the art of listening. Many books and CDs are available on the subject.
  • Practice makes perfect. Get used to asking questions and then intently listening.
  • Prepare for meetings and understand what your non-verbal cues are saying.
  • Don’t “show up and throw up” at meetings. No one really wants to hear your life story.
  • Find common ground and common interests. That drives real conversation.
  • When actively listening, don’t get distracted by others or your technology.
  • Turn off your computer and smart phone at certain times and on certain days. Connect with people the old-fashioned way: talk to them.
  • Keep an open mind when listening. Closing off is the fastest way of shutting down a conversation before the good stuff comes out.
  • Embrace the silence in a conversation. Many people are afraid of silence and just start talking to fill the gap. Resist the temptation. Think before speaking.
  • Recap your conversation and agree on follow-up and timing.