Your Most Powerful Skill Is…
Did you read the title of this blog and think, “Brenda, is this a trick question?” Or did you immediately fill in the blank with something that you are just awesome at?
It’s okay…we all have things we’re good at, but I’m talking about a powerful skill that will serve you like no other! It’s practically a superpower! Do you know what it is?
Listening Your Most Powerful Skill
It’s the ability to be a good listener.
“If speaking is silver, then listening is gold.” -Turkish Proverb
“Sometimes the most influential thing we can do is listen.” –Bob Burg
“There is a difference between truly listening and waiting for your turn to talk.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson
“We have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen more than we say.” –Zeno of Citium
These are just a few of my favorite quotes about listening and being a good listener. They just speak to the immense importance of this skill.
More Talking than Listening
And yes, you may be laughing that the woman who’s never met a stranger, who loves to talk with others, who enjoys a great conversation – is talking to you about listening. But it’s truly because I know the importance of it. You can’t be an effective leader without it.
I’ll admit that early in my career, I did a lot more talking than listening. I think it may have come from a feeling of insecurity. But as I’ve grown as a leader, I’ve become a much better listener – and I know when to talk – and when to put my listening hat on! And here are my top tips for becoming a better listener. (And trust me – this skill will serve you well at home, too!)
Create an environment
This is the #1 thing you can do to make listening your superpower! You want to create an environment where people want to speak – and feel comfortable doing so. They need to know that you will take them seriously, listen attentively, be open to new ideas and that no matter what they share, there will be no repercussions.
Clear away distractions
When people come to speak with you, clear away all distractions. Put away your phone. Close your laptop. You may even need to shut your door depending on the topic to be discussed.
Quiet your mind
Has someone ever come to talk with you, and you find your mind racing, wondering what they want to discuss. You may even find yourself thinking about worst-case scenarios – and that’s most likely not the case. But when you quiet your mind, you are a more attentive listener – because you learn to put your own agenda or thoughts aside.
Make eye contact
I can’t believe I still have to put this on the list, but if you’ve ever tried to speak with someone who doesn’t make eye contact with you, you know how it makes you feel – like you’re not being heard. Make eye contact.
Look for non-verbal cues
Watch for non-verbal cues from the speaker. Are they shifting their weight? Are they highly animated? Are they frowning or smiling? Non-verbal cues can often teach us as much as the words themselves.
Emotions and feelings
Yes, there may be emotions and feelings involved – and they may not even be related to the topic to be discussed. But people are just that…people. And they have lives outside of work that spills over into work sometimes. And conversations can be emotional – no matter what the topic is – depending on what is happening with the person speaking.
Repeat what you heard
If you want to show that you heard what was being said, then repeat back what you heard. It shows that you were attentive and allows for clarification if you need it.
Ask thoughtful questions
You may have questions during the course of the conversation. It’s important not to interrupt but to wait for a pause (and they will happen) and then ask your questions. Make sure you’ve taken a moment to think about what you need to ask – and then, be patient and give the person you’re speaking with time to formulate their response.
So let’s hear it for: LISTENING!!! It’s a skill you must have in your arsenal of tools!
P.S. I’d love to know if you consider yourself a good listener or if it’s a skill that you’re still working on!