A simple idea for better listening

learn2.0This is by far the best quote about listening that I’ve ever run across.

b2_quote Ordinary listeners only listen until they have an opinion about what they are hearing or until they validate what they already know. Great listeners listen until they learn something they did not know before.

(I wrote this down many, many moons ago and lost the attribution. If someone knows where this comes from, I’d very much appreciate knowing the source.)

It’s one of those seminal thoughts that gets to the simple side of complexity. I’ve found I don’t have to think much about active listening or appreciative inquiry if I simply try to learn something from a conversation, online or in person. For me, this has crossed time, technology, my career path, and my personal growth. It’s applied to virtual and physical networking. It’s served me when managing people and when being managed.

Have you ever been asked to sit down with someone for a general-purpose networking meeting and the person spends the time you’ve given them talking about themselves? And when you chime in with your perspective they offer a statement about how it relates to them? A lost opportunity at best. A lost relationship at worst.

Ever had a client give you feedback and they never stopped to ask what your thought process was in creating the deliverable? Or have you ever given feedback to a contractor, agency, or direct report without asking them the same question? It’s very likely that they, like you, thought deeply about what they delivered. Not attempting to understand their process risks missing great ideas. And disengages them for the next round of execution.

For me, listening is a skill and talent that requires constant work. I’m not a natural listener and need to continually monitor myself by asking “have I learned something yet?” I set this as a kind of minimum requirement to earn the right to chime in with an opinion or a validation.

As those who know me will tell you, I’m far from perfect. But my best interactions have occurred when this monitoring technique is operating well. And what I’ve found is that the minimum requirement becomes mute: I listen better throughout the engagement and forget all about what I want to say or offer.

I can’t help but wonder if this might help others.

Learn by Aaron Schmidt