By Colleen Harding
There are a million “one liners” about the importance of listening. We have all heard about our “two ears and one mouth.” We have also been told that you don’t learn anything from speaking. Information and knowledge comes from listening. It has been made very clear that it is important for us to listen.
So why is it so difficult for some people? If you turn on the local news, you see many examples of people not listening. You will find many individuals expressing themselves. Disagreeing with something is not an invitation to abandon your listening skills. You are allowed to express yourself kindly, but a good rule to follow would be to spend as much time listening as you do speaking.
Good listeners are very powerful. They ask great questions and digest the information. Then they continue to ask more great questions, demonstrating that they are listening. Finally, they follow up later and ask more great questions, demonstrating that not only were they listening but they have also remembered what you said.
Great listeners are also able to say a lot in few words. They summarize thoughts well and can take a paragraph and condense it into a brief sentence, so that they can get back to listening.
Many times we find ourselves abandoning the importance of good listening skills because our need to express ourselves trumps the importance of listening. Listening is polite. Even if you don’t agree with a person or what is going on, listening is courteous. It makes people feel valued. It is easier to respect and like a person who is a good listener. Listening can help break through communication barriers, says John Ward of Ward Consulting, who holds a masters degree in counseling.
So the next time you want to be heard, listen first. Ask some great questions and listen. Then start your conversation with openers, such as “That is an excellent point” or “I understand what you are saying.” Then briefly express your opinion or concern. Your chances of being heard are far greater than if you had spent the entire time expressing your opinion. You can be effective without being offensive, and listening is a great way to start. So the next time you truly want to be heard, try listening.
Colleen Harding is a protocol coach and the founder of the Cleveland School of Etiquette and Corporate Protocol. She can be reached at (216) 970-5889 and email@example.com.