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Leadership is: Listening

Hearing words is not the same as understanding them.

“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” – Ralph Nichols (interesting interview w/ Ralph Nichols)

Beneficial communication consist of two parts: sharing & receiving. It seems for most, that sharing, or talking, is far easier for the average person than receiving, or listening, is.  Also, since we’ve already discussed some healthy sharing habits in an earlier post, lets look at some healthy listening habits.

1. Forming a response, while another person is sharing, is not listening. Conversations move quickly, and they move even faster when more people are involved. It is possible that if we don’t form our response quickly we will miss our opportunity to share our insight. The problem with this perception is that our listening is still about us. Listening must be about the other person. If the conversation passes us by, and we believe our thought/response is beneficial, we can revisit it in the conversation, or say it later to the person one on one.

This leads us to our next habit:

2. Processing, or contextualizing, what another person is saying is crucial for communication. When we combine prior and current information we’ve received from the person with whom we are communicating, it allows us to understand better what it is they are saying. Also, we must listen to HOW they are saying it. It has been said that two-thirds of all communication is non-verbal. If this is true, we must listen to their tone and watch their body language. Paul Ekman discusses this practice in his book: Emotions Revealed: Recognizing Faces and Feelings to Improve Communication and Emotional Life


3. Forming our response should not be based on who we are, but rather who the speaker is. We share with the hope that people will respond to what we’ve shared, others are no different. We must format our responses based on who they are so that one, they know they’ve been heard and two, so we can give a proper response. While this doesn’t seem to be an outright listening habit, the reality is we must listen to find out what type of person they are. This way our response can be a proper one.

This 2007 Bloomberg Business Week article has some more great leadership listening suggestions!

What listening habits help you listen better

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