SOCIAL Intelligence

Heather: The paradox of listening

What do you admire about the best leaders you've ever worked with? Was it their technical competency or raw intelligence, their ability to command a stage, or inspire a group…or did they do something more subtle, yet incredibly powerful?

Chances are this best leader did this really really well: they LISTENED.

Here's why it's important to you. A research study by Zenger and Folkman found that leaders with a preference for listening are rated as significantly more effective. And, the higher up in the organisation they went, the more important listening became. Which led the researchers to say: "listening will propel your success."

Harvard researcher Amy Cuddy said "The paradox of listening is that by relinquishing power — the temporary power of speaking, asserting, knowing — we become more powerful."

So, if you want to have more influence, have a positive effect on others, build stronger relationships, and become a more emotionally intelligent leader…this is A SUPER skill to practice.

Here are three tips to becoming a great listener:

Number one: Learn to listen with genuine interest and curiosity. Most of us listen just long enough where we can cut in and start talking. The next time you are in a conversation, have only one intention: be curious. You will be surprised what you learn and how something shifts in your relationship when we truly listen with genuine interest and curiosity.

Number two: Pay attention to your body language. Now this isn't new but how many of us practise this? Am I turning toward the person when they are talking to me, is my body language open and receptive vs arms crossed, am I am making eye contact? How are my facial expressions? Our brains mirror and pick up these subtle cues so it pays to mindful of the cues you are sending.

Number three: Learn the skill of 'looping'. Looping is being able to paraphrase back what you heard the person say – to make sure you truly understood. Wait for a comfortable pause in the conversation, then try looping back with "thanks for sharing that. What I heard you say is…" and then paraphrase a few key points. Then, ask them if you understood correctly and allow them the chance to adjust and provide you some feedback to make sure you fully understood.

Remember the paradox of listening: by relinquishing some power and truly listening – in turn you will become MORE powerful and effective as a leader. And, being present and truly listening to another is perhaps the best gift you can give another human being.


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