‘’I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.’’ ― Ernest Hemingway
However, if we want to be trustworthy, we have to learn about others. The best and fastest way to learn about others is to master the art of listening.
Listening is one of the most underrated skills you can develop. Both in business and in your personal life. The main reason it’s underrated is that people believe they know how to listen. This action seems as simple and as intuitive as breathing.
We are mistaking listening with hearing. In reality, mixing those two things can be detrimental to our careers, as well as our personal relationships.
I learned this lesson the hard way.
A little over a year ago, I moved to Malaysia where I landed my dream job working in one of the biggest self-development companies in the world. It’s an international environment with employees coming from more than 40 different countries.
After the first week on the job, I realized that my English is not at the level where I needed it to be to grow and advance in the company. It was good enough, but I always needed that extra second to express my thoughts.
In a fast paced startup environment where decisions are made on the spot, you usually don’t have that extra second.
Before joining the company, I was always the first one to speak out, and I was comfortable with the spotlight in any environment.
On my new job, however, it just wasn’t like that. Somehow in those moments that count the most, where you have to pitch an idea to get noticed, I couldn’t deliver. I became self-conscious about my verbal English, and the more I tried to talk my way up to success the worse it got.
I lost my mojo.
After two months of frustration, I realized that I am not going to win in this game. Not like this, anyway.
I decided that for the moment I need to take a backseat so that I can take over the plane later.
Without any hidden agenda or manipulation strategy, I started socializing more with a genuine desire to learn about people I work with.
The following is a short version of what I learned.
1. Focus on Learning and Understanding
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” ― Stephen R. Covey
Before any interaction, the most important thing to have is the right mindset. The mindset of learning and understanding rather than merely replying and waiting for your turn to talk.
In most cases, people don’t need a good talking to, but a good listening to.
Having this in the back of your head will help you steer the conversation in the desired direction. A direction of learning about the other person.
2. Give Your Undivided Attention
‘’Give whatever you are doing and whoever you are with the gift of your attention.’’ ― Jim Rohn
One of the greatest gifts you can give to others is your attention. Regardless of the situation or circumstances. Whether you’ve just met someone or you’re having a casual conversation with a friend.
I know that many people think body language is the crucial factor in any interaction.
One thing we should keep in mind is that a body is and always will be a servant to the mind. In other words, if your intention is to learn about others, you will display open body language and send a message to the other person that you are listening.
Instead of focusing on all the body language techniques you have to use and to put them in a right sequence, here is one thing each and every one of us can easily achieve. It’s something you should never do in a conversation.
Don’t use your phone when talking to another person. Nothing kills the connection between two people quicker than a smartphone.
Taking out your phone sends a powerful message that something else is more important than the ongoing interaction.
In the case of an emergency, politely excuse yourself. Otherwise, Instagram like notification will still be there 10 minutes later.
Aside from being a gift to others, your undivided attention in the conversation is one of the best investments you can make for yourself. Remember: The more attention the more information.
3. Show That You Listen
‘’Listening is not merely hearing. Listening is reacting. Listening is being affected by what you hear. Listening is active.’’ ― Michael Shurtleff
When it comes to human interaction, active listening is one of the most important skills you can develop. The fastest way to show someone you are listening is to engage in a conversation through asking the right questions.
The right questions are those questions that show a desire to learn more about the topic at hand.
There are many techniques out there, but one of the most effective ones is called ‘’Linking’’.
It’s all about repeating or rephrasing what the other person said previously and linking it with a follow-up question or a statement that validates and reinforces the linked idea.
Doing this in an ongoing conversation sends a message to the other person. The simple message is that you are listening and you care. Unfortunately, not many people leave that kind of an impression.
Even though the fastest way to learn is to ask questions, a conversation shouldn’t be an interview.
So don’t make it a series of “yes or no” questions, asked just for the sake of asking. Feel free to give your perspective and opinion to keep that conversation as dynamic as possible.
4. Hear the Meaning (Not the words)
‘’Great communicators don’t just hear the words. Great communicators hear the meaning behind the words’’ ― Simon Sinek
If you pay attention in a conversation, you will notice that different topics bring out different emotion in the person you’re talking to.
Hear the emotion that drives those words. Once you do, stay on that course. If possible, discover the real reason behind that feeling.
One additional note here: You don’t have to remember the entire conversation, just the highlights. Those highlights are topics that caused that emotion.
Make a mental note in your head, because you are going to need it for the next and final step.
5. Follow up and Follow through (Connection Bridge Principle)
‘’Diligent follow-up and follow-through will set you apart from the crowd and communicate excellence.’’ ― John C. Maxwell
The last and often neglected step. Also the crucial one. Especially if you know that you are going to see that person again and that the previous conversation wasn’t the last one.
Many master communicators are using this principle. This is also one of the things Tom Cruise excels at (reportedly he learns the crew’s names, treats everybody as an equal, and months later will remember to ask how their kids are doing.)
Let’s face it. No matter how good of an impression we made on someone, or how much someone liked us, a follow-up is a must.
People tend to forget. The more time passed between the conversations, the less likely will people remember how much you cared and how good you made them feel.
A connection bridge principle serves to reduce the gap from the last time we had a conversation with someone until the present moment. Use the highlight from the previous interaction to pick up where you left off.
It is also a great icebreaker, so you don’t have to fall back on good old small talk.
By now, it should be evident that my problem wasn’t my inability to speak English and pitch when I needed to.
My problem was that I thought I knew how to communicate, when in fact I never really knew how to listen.
Even though I was conceptually aware of the importance of listening, the realization came with the actual and deliberate practice.
Just like with any other skill, you can learn and master it. It takes time, but the rewards are worthwhile.
By changing my communication style from talking and pitching to listening and learning, I did reach my initial goals.
In a short period, I managed to get a promotion, two raises and a working trip to the USA to work with some of the most extraordinary people in the self-development industry.
Despite all of that the key learning point from my experience was that wherever your journey takes you, you have to build bridges to get to your destination.
(Disclaimer before the end: I can’t guarantee that you will get a promotion or a raise by using the above framework, but I can promise that you will learn a lot about yourself by listening to others.)
Call To Action
If you want to improve your social skills and learn how to become a Connection Rockstar download my free guide called: ‘’Four Rockstar Principles For Instant Connection With Anyone’’
Originally published at theascent.biz