when you would rather have talked.”
~ Mark Twain
We love this quote from Mark Twain as it reminds us of a core truth – one must listen fully and completely to gain wisdom and perspective. And, wisdom and perspective can help us create more meaningful lives, more success in our service to others and to our work, and more impact in our worlds.
Unfortunately, listening isn’t as natural or as easy as most of us would like.
Day-to-day, many of us feel that we need to perform . . . we need to demonstrate our skill in our jobs, our competence as parents, our confidence in our own opinions. It can seem necessary to talk, and talk a lot, to convey our expertise to others.
While demonstrating competence does matter, demonstrating wisdom and perspective creates trust in who you are as a person and a leader, and lets people know there’s more to you than “the show” . . . something deeper and more authentic.
People want to be around and to follow authentic, wise leaders.
So how do you grow in your ability to listen deeply?
- It takes self-control and patience to listen fully and well.
When we coach leaders to listen well, we’re coaching them to slow themselves down and be open to the information they’re hearing. Many of us have noticed that as soon as someone starts talking we start planning what we are going to say in response – before they’ve even finished a sentence!
- It takes decreasing your reactivity to listen fully and well.
Many leaders describe their fear of listening, telling us that they fear that they’ll hear something they don’t want to hear or something that challenges their sense of competence. They describe getting caught in reacting versus responding like the leader they want to be.
We remind them of the Pause – taking that moment to ask yourself, “Is what I’m about to say or do in alignment with my goals?”
If your goal is to listen fully and well, pausing will be a game changer.
- It takes growing your curiosity about others’ experiences and perspectives to listen fully and well.
In our culture, many people believe that they must always know the answer.
That being an adult is having an answer to pretty much any problem that crosses their path.
We remind our clients that people who are curious and passionate about learning with and from others often have the most success.
This is for (at least) two reasons: When you’re curious about others’ experiences and thoughts, they feel valued and it increases the sense of connection and camaraderie and you’ll learn things about people, their lives, the world, and even content that you would never have learned otherwise.
Wisdom is, indeed, the reward you get from listening with openness, managing your reactivity, and leading with curiosity about others’ experiences and thoughts.
Next week, we’re going to explore questions. A great question can lead you into profoundly meaningful and helpful conversations.
– Linda, Stephanie, and Heather