Posted by: Christine Donovan | July 2, 2009

Living in Excellence: Listening

I was at a Chamber of Commerce meeting the other night, and was once again reminded that listening is a skill few people have mastered.

If you take a class or read a book on networking or sales, you’ll learn it always starts with listening.  The best sales people are good listeners, the best managers are good listeners, and the best parents are good listeners.

But the folks at the Chamber meeting, although they certainly meant well and were trying to promote their businesses, never heard that listening, more than talking will bring you new clients and opportunities….and new friends.

There is a Chinese Proverb that says:  

To listen well, is as powerful a means of influence as to talk well, and is as essential to all true conversation.

Another favorite quote, from an unknown author says: Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force.  The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward.  When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.

Carl Rogers, the famous psychologist of the 1950s wrote a well known essay called Active Listening.  In it, he points out:

Active listening is an important way to bring about changes in people. Despite the popular notion that listening is a passive approach, clinical and research evidence clearly shows that sensitive listening is a most effective agent for individual personality change and group development. Listening brings about changes in peoples’ attitudes toward themselves and others; it also brings about changes in their basic values and personal philosophy. People who have been listened to in this new and special way become more emotionally mature, more open to their experiences, less defensive, more democratic, and less authoritarian.”

To listen using Carl Rogers technique isn’t easy… it takes real discipline.  Active listeners read “between the lines” and see through to hopes, fears and needs.  Active listeners identify feelings, not just information.

 An amateur listener for example… might respond to someone’s concern about losing their job by saying, “Oh, me too.  I don’t know what to do about it.  And my husband is worried about his job also…” etc, etc.

 An ACTIVE listener would say, “I can see it’s a concern to you; we’re living in tough times.  What makes you think you might lose your job?”  After the response, the active listener continues…”I understand; you’re smart to be making alternate plans. What is your line of work…?  Maybe I know someone who can help…”  And so on.

If you can learn this skill, I guarantee that you will have people following you around, forming lines just to talk to you (well maybe not literally, but you will see a change in all your relationships).  Therapists make $100 an hour because they are professional listeners; people hunger for someone to HEAR their fears and needs.

If you learn the skill of active listening, you’ll find that your relationships change, that people who work for you are inspired, and that your business increases.

Study the art of listening and you’re on your way to a new life.





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