“The ability to make a person feel that, when you’re with that person, he or she is the most important (and the only) person in the room is the skill that separates the great from the near-great.” ~Marshall Goldsmith
Can you make people feel that they are the only one who matters? This is the skill that defines some of the most successful interviewers, such as Oprah Winfrey, Katie Couric and Diane Sawyer. Bill Clinton also has this ability. He makes a point of knowing or learning something positive about the people he communicates with, and letting them know that he recognizes it.
What is at the core of this kind of intentional listening? FOCUS. People tend to lose focus when listening to others. Eyes dart around the room, thoughts of your next meeting or the next thing you want to say are edging in. Here is an exercise to help you increase focus. Close your eyes. Start counting to 50, and only concentrate on counting. If your mind wanders, bring it back to counting. You may be surprised that many people are unable to do this. Use this exercise as a way to improve your ability to concentrate in your everyday communications. Once you can count to 50 without interrupting yourself, then you’re ready for a test drive. Here is a core listening list, compliments of Marshall Goldsmith:
- Listen, don’t interrupt.
- Don’t finish the other person’s sentences.
- Don’t say “I knew that.”
- Don’t even agree with the other person (even if he praises you, just say, “Thank you”).
- Don’t use the wordsthe words “no,” “but,” and “however.”
- Don’t be distracted. Don’t let your eyes or attention wanter elsewhere while the other person is talking.
- Maintain your end of the dialogue by asking intelligent questions that (a) show you’re paying attention, (b) move the conversation forward, and (c) require the other person to talk (while you listen).
Eliminate any striving to impress the other person with how smart or funny you are Your only aim is to let the other person feel that he or she is accomplishing that. In the words of Marshall Goldsmith, “The more you subsume your desire to shine, the more you will shine in the other person’s eyes.”
Effective listening skills are one of the cornerstones in personal effectiveness. After many years and countless clients and colleagues who have improved their careers (and lives) from our Increasing Personal Effectiveness program, we have found that true, sincere, active listening skills are key to success.
Listen for collaboration.
Solve problems by asking questions.
Create self-growth through listening to constructive feedback.
The 5 Flaws of Listening
- Giving advice
- Telling others how to feel
Active listening is not about developing newfound charm! Make it purposeful, sincere, and focused on making the other person feel recognized and understood. You already know how to do this, because you do it on those special occasions, like a first date, an interview, or meeting someone you admire for the first time. Now remember to do it all the time.
“Successful people become great leaders when they learn to shift the focus from themselves to others.” ~Marshall Goldsmith
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