Listening is the missing half of communication. It is absolutely necessary but often ignored. We live in an age that we call the ‘age of communication’ and there is certainly a lot of talking going on. But how much listening can there be, with so much distraction around us?
It’s easy to view the art of communicating as one way. That the skill of influencing is about being able to present a persuasive case – or that consultancy is about recommending customised, client-focused proposals. But the reality is that it’s listening that’s the golden key for the door to human relationships.
Genuine listening costs us nothing yet it brings huge benefits. First, it helps us understand the other side. How can we hope to change another person’s mind, if we don’t know where their mind is? Secondly, listening helps us Connect – to build rapport, trust and show we care (after all no-one cares how much we know, until they know how much we care!). And thirdly, it makes it more likely that the other person will listen to us – and therefore help us get to yes.
The problem is that we take listening for granted. And that when we listen, we hear the words but are often simultaneously thinking about our own values, concerns, interests… and how to respond. In other words, the focus is on us. But in genuine listening, we put ourselves in their shoes; we tune into their wavelength, and listen within their frame of reference… not our own. In genuine listening, we don’t just listen to the words, we listen to what’s not being said – the nuances, the emotion, the needs and wants.
You’ve heard of reading between the lines – this is listening between the lines.
(Taken from an excellent Ted Talk by William Ury – ‘The Power of Listening’)