Want to be More Influential? Work on Being a Better Listener.

I’m one of those people who doesn’t like talking on the phone. The only people who can get me on the phone is my dad and grandmother, and that’s because they don’t know how to send text messages. The problem with our current nonverbally-communicating culture is that many of us forget the fine art and skill of actually listening to people. We want the information delivered in small, easy to digest snippets that require the least amount of effort to respond to as possible.

The other issue is that we are actually biologically set up to listen about three times faster than anyone can talk. This means our brains are likely to go off and try to entertain itself or just be in constant preparation to respond to whatever is being said, meaning we aren’t actually listening in the first place. What we need to realize, though, is that being a good listener is actually one of the best ways to increase your influence and likeability with others. Not only that, but employers say that listening is one of the top skills that they seek in potential and current employees since it’s linked to a perceived ability to lead. So how do we break our bad listening habits and work on being a better listener?

1. Be present

Start forming the habit of being an intentional listener in every conversation you’re involved in – be it with co-workers, friends, or your cab driver. I know it’s difficult, but put down your cell phone or anything else that could serve as a distraction. Texting while someone is speaking to you is a pretty good indication that you really aren’t interested in what they’re saying (and that feels shitty). If you’re at work, close your laptop and move papers to the side to really make others feel like you’re fully engaged. Maintaining eye contact and leaning forward are also great body language indicators that you’re into what’s being said (even if you’re not).

 2. Resist the urge to interrupt

We often feel as though interrupting to give our opinion is an indication that we are listening or understand, but even though it may be well intended, this isn’t the best way for someone to feel heard. Give the speaker uninterrupted time to get their thoughts and feelings out. Even physical reactions should be cut down, as these are generally ways for us to get a word in. It’s tempting to want to give our own thoughts to someone, but holding back until you’re confident the idea has been fully expressed and they are expecting a response is the safest route.

3. Repeat back 

This will likely make more sense in work situations, but repeating back what you heard with a simple “So what you’re saying is…, is that right?” can both validate that you were paying attention and care enough to ensure you understand what’s being communicated. If there’s something you don’t understand, ask for more details. Asking questions means you want to hear more as opposed to just wanting to add your input or relate what is being said back to you (a bad habit we can all possess).

We all like to feel as though we’re being heard. Give that respect to others and see how it can positively impact your relationships. The first step is to be mindful as to when you’re not giving your full attention and work to correct it. Once you start the pattern of being an attentive listener, it will become second nature – and boom, you’re a better friend, co-worker and employee.


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