4 Ways Listening Helps You To Create Impact And Elevate Your Career
Can you remember the last time you felt truly listened to? Can you remember an occasion where you felt dismissed by the person you were talking to, or felt that they were only “half listening”?
The quality of your listening impacts the quality of your conversations with colleagues and clients, which has the potential to accelerate or limit your career progression.
Unless you are paying full attention to the person who is speaking to you, it’s likely your understanding of what they are saying, and your ability to build rapport, will be curtailed.
You might already be an excellent listener, in which case it’s not unusual to feel frustrated that the onus is on you to continue to hone your skill. However, listening can directly benefit you in many ways.
Here are four ways that being a skilful and strategic listener can benefit you (we’ll explore five ways to hone your skill in a moment):
-1- Listening unlocks your ability to have a wider and deeper reach. We know that it’s human nature to like people who are like us. This might mean that they speak like us, use a similar vocabulary or have backgrounds that we can relate to, but this also means we are closing ourselves off to a broader understanding.
When you hear different points of view, it helps you to consider the situation from a new perspective; you will likely start to value what other people have to say, which can help breed alternate or better solutions.
-2- It’s an opportunity to learn from others. When we go on holiday as a family, we are occasionally seated separately on the flight. There’s a standing joke that by the time we reach our destination, I will know everything about the person sitting next to me, but the truth is that’s because I prioritise listening.
What I hear often leads to a fantastic recommendation to eat at one restaurant or to visit a little-known viewing spot, or wise advice around what to consider avoiding.
New York journalist Kate Murphy has written a brilliant book, You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters. In it she shares a story about two people on a flight. One person talks incessantly, and just as the plane lands he introduces himself by name to the person he’d been talking to. His fellow passenger is said to have replied: “I’m Neil Armstrong.”
Can you imagine if you had been sitting next to the first ever person to walk on the moon and instead of learning from them you did all the talking? What an opportunity lost!
The Dalai Lama once said: “When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.”
-3- It’s an opportunity to learn about others. Listening intently to what someone is saying (or not saying) helps you to understand that person more deeply. It helps you build rapport and synergy, and to strengthen your collaborative approach – all of which supports you to meet their professional needs at a deeper level.
Some of what you learn might be subtle, and some of your learnings might have the potency to create dramatic change. When I was growing up, my father had significant hearing problems and wore a hearing aid. Watching TV together was not particularly enjoyable as we would frequently have to repeat what an actor had said (no ability to pause or watch a replay in those days!).
Technology has advanced to the extent that there are even subtitles available on social media channels now. I find subtitles a useful reinforcement, and since English is not the first language for many of our Elevate Talent delegates, I know they do too.
However, I recently watched a programme that usually has subtitles when broadcast live, but the download had none.
Can you imagine the negative impact on a viewer who is hard of hearing or who relies on those subtitles? If the production team took the time to understand their consumer in more depth and provided optional subtitles, they’d be creating a positive impact. It may have been an oversight, but by paying attention to the needs of their audience (listening), they would be better placed to meet their customer needs.
What might you be missing in your interactions with clients? Walk yourself through your customer journey and notice the gaps. What could you adjust for the better?
-4- It supports you to deliver high-impact work (see last week’s blog for more detail on this). Although you work alongside colleagues, you are ultimately working for the good of your clients. You might hear from your colleagues throughout the day, but how often do you hear from your clients? When you hear less, you get less.
You need to have razor-sharp listening skills to gain insight into their perspectives, create synergy and understand their needs. If you are not actively listening, it’s a great disservice that prevents you from providing the best support, the best service or the best product.
And, from your point of view, if you aren’t listening and you’re delivering a service that your client considers out of alignment with what they need, you are creating a negative impact. To achieve the outcome and the high impact that you want, you must actively listen and deliver accordingly.
Here are five ways to become a better listener and elevate your conversations:
-1- Increase your awareness. We frequently refer to “awareness” in our programmes at Elevate Talent because it is an essential foundation for change. Pay attention to what you hear and reflect on it afterwards. How many times have you been in a meeting with a colleague only for both of you to realise that you heard or concluded something entirely different from each other?
Once you identify if there is capacity to fine-tune your skills, you can make the most of the next four suggestions.
-2- Be present and tune out your own inner chatter. Your role as the listener is to receive input, not to instantly give output. When you focus on what the other person is saying, rather than on the thoughts racing around your head, you’ll likely notice those tiny nuances in inflection, a specific word that your client or colleague uses (a great way to build rapport if you use it back later), or pick up on a golden nugget that would otherwise be missed.
-3- Engage and support the conversation that your client or colleague initiates, rather than trying to control or shift to a new topic. There’s a reason why they instigated the original topic. Tune in and get curious.
-4- Choose to fully listen to new viewpoints (especially if they’re unfamiliar to you). Instead of preparing your response in your head or becoming defensive, be willing to explore how the other person arrived at their conclusion.
-5- Don’t make assumptions about what the person might say next. Be patient and wait to experience the direction they take the conversation in. If you interrupt to clarify a point or finish their sentence, it sounds as though you think you know best; listen.
I hope this blog has shared some valuable insights around the art of listening so that you can expand your knowledge, increase understanding and, ultimately, create a positive impact as you progress your career. I’d love to hear your key takeaways; send us a message!