Everything is built on relationships: from business partnerships to life-long friendships. It’s no surprise that people who are great at relating to others tend to be more successful in life. We are all capable of showing interest in another person, in asking questions, and listening for the answers without interruption. However, many of us use this skill only when we are after something. We do our best when we are trying to close a deal with an important new client or to impress a potential new partner.
The best among us have made genuinely listening to others their second nature. They don’t have an on-off switch for caring, empathy, and showing respect. It’s always on. So why don’t the rest of us follow the same practice?
Test Your Listening Skills
Here is a simple exercise to test your listening skills. Close your eyes and slowly count to 50. Don’t let any other thoughts intrude your mind as you concentrate on maintaining the count. It is simple but not easy, and many people can’t do it. They get distracted by thoughts about work or what they will have for dinner. Now, think about it this way: if focusing for 50 seconds is a challenge, how will you be able to listen long and patiently to another person?
This little exercise exposes a weakness – that it’s easy to get distracted. Practice listening without distraction by making it your goal to treat the other person as if he or she is the only one in the room.
6 Skills to Apply
To improve your practice, apply these six behavioral skills:
- Listen. Don’t interrupt.
- Don’t say “I knew that,” “no” or “but.”
- Neither agree nor disagree with the other person.
- If you receive praise, just say “thank you.”
- Don’t let your eyes wander elsewhere while the other person is talking.
- Ask intelligent questions that move the conversation forward.
Now, test and consider your experience. Did you feel you were more present and connected with the other person? Once you focus on letting your counterpart feel important, you will uncover a paradox: that the more you subdue your own desire to shine, the more you will shine in the other person’s eyes. Keep practicing, and soon making a lasting positive impression on the people you meet will become an invaluable habit.