Thursday, January 19, 2012

5 Reasons to Learn to Listen


Lis Wiehl, in her book Winning Every Time: How to Use the Skills of a Lawyer in the Trials of Your Life, writes that managing your advocacy with a child takes practice, discipline, a willingness to listen, and an open heart. In fact, everyone from Shakespeare to Wadsworth has written about the need to listen carefully to gain facts or even wisdom.

Why is it we have so much difficulty listening when we certainly know the benefits of it?  My personal opinion is that it’s very hard to do and takes a lot of practice! If you’re eager to improve your listening skills, these five tips may help you succeed.

1. First, stop talking! You can't listen if you are talking.

In Shakespeare's Hamlet, Polonius (Laertes's) father cautions him about his behavior in court to "give every man thine ear, but few thy voice."

2. Look like you want to listen!

Focus, make eye contact with the speaker, and act interested. Turn off and put away your BlackBerry. Don't read your emails. Practice listening to learn and understand rather than to oppose. Really listen to the speaker without interrupting!

"The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn't being said." ~ Peter F. Drucker

3. Clear and secure the space.
Put away your Blackberry or iPhone. Don't check your email, doodle, tap, or shuffle papers. Clear the environment; shut the door!

4. Empathize with the speaker—which is much easier to do if you're not talking.

"Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you'd have preferred to talk." ~ Doug Larson

5. Be patient.

Allow plenty of time for the speaker to talk. Don't interrupt.

"I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen." ~ Ernest Hemingway.

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Roger Ailes, in his book You Are the Message, offers another way to learn how to listen:

"Try going to a week of meetings and saying absolutely nothing unless you're directly asked to speak or you're required to talk. For a week, discipline yourself to go with a notepad to any meeting or interactive situation and listen. Sit quietly for a while, listen, and see what other people are saying. According to the ancient text, Sirach, 'If you love to listen, you will gain knowledge and if you incline your ear, you will become wise.'"