Listening to be More Influential
Experts say the ability to express yourself verbally often reaps influence. There is evidence (Journal of Research in Personality) that being an effective listener is also as important.
Effective listening is two-way, it:
- Prevents miscommunication.
- Confirms understanding of the message.
- Reduces frustration for the person ‘transmitting’ the message.
- Gives access to others’ beliefs, knowledge, objectives and attitudes.
- Allows people to disclose information, more readily, to those who listen well.
The listener can tailor their persuasion attempt better when those being ‘spoken to’ feel ‘listened to’, building liking and trust.
Good listening skills have been shown to positively correlate to the effectiveness of leaders – making leaders seem more open and agreeable (two of the ‘Big Five’ dimensions of Effective Leaders):
- Conscientiousness – thoughtfulness and goal directed behaviour.
- Extraversion – positive energy and emotions (excitability, sociability and assertiveness).
- Openness – creative, curious, insightful and informed).
- Agreeability – trust, kindness and affection.
- Neuroticism – anger, anxiety or depression.
How can I tell if I am a good listener?
How well we speak and present is easy to measure through praise or criticism. However it’s difficult to measure how well we listen!
Clients regularly advise us that their more productive teams are those who exhibit good listening and communication. We often observe in our Simulation workshops that teams who listen effectively to each other, often outperform those who don’t. We’ve found that some of these teams genuinely do not ‘hear’ what their stakeholders say. Often because they have already made up their mind what they assume the stakeholder is going to say. Building positive awareness of this ‘mindset preset’ is the first step to correcting it.
How can I become a better listener?
In his book ‘The Art of People’, Dave Kerpen asserts that there are three steps you can take to improve your listening skills:
- Focussing - we are often distracted and fail to pay attention to what is actually being said. Dave Kerpen encourages us to practice really giving the person speaking to us our full attention and placing effort on being in the moment.
- Mirroring - by reflecting back what the person has said to you (or what you think you heard) the person feels valued, you confirm your understanding and remember what you heard.
- Validating - giving the person ‘permission’ to feel their emotion, e.g. “It’s OK to be angry – I would feel the same way”.
Why not practice these and ask someone for feedback on how your listening skills are improving?
A risk free way to practice
Our Simulations (where teams play the same management scenario, at the same time, in the same conditions) are a great way to practice your listening skills when you are:
- Managing stakeholders.
- Managing programmes.
- Leading projects.
- Leading change.
We find that teams, playing the simulations, filter what they are hearing and taking in. There can be up to five teams at a time playing, they often hear different messages, although the actual message given is the same. Filtering what they are learning. They are made aware of this during debrief when the groups share what they heard. Attendees realise that they naturally have these filters installed based on experience, prejudices and culture. This realisation is the first steps to recognising, modifying and removing some of these blocks to listening.
Research sources: Journal of Research in Personality (2012) – The role of listening in interpersonal influence (Aimes, Maissen and Brockner)