Listen Up! You Just Might Learn Something Copy


“Can you please stop and listen to what I’m saying?”

With three children – ages four, seven and eight – I find myself saying this type of thing quite frequently. I literally need to stop them in their tracks, at times, if I’m going to get their full attention.

“Too many people listen with their mouth open and tongue moving.”

But it’s not just children, I think we’d all agree that plenty of grown ups can also use better listening skills – and I’m one of them. Listening is easier than it sounds, especially when you have a lot to say. But it’s also a critical skill in the business world.

Google, for example, identified eight key skills of successful leaders at the company, noting that while technical skills are certainly important, these leaders most often demonstrate inherently human qualities, like listening and asking questions.

So during the month of January, I’ve made a concerted effort to do more listening. Whether it’s been at home with the kids, or in business meetings, I’ve been forcing myself to do less talking and more listening – and it’s been enlightening.

I can certainly think of a few specific meetings this month where I let my mouth get the best of me, and didn’t do enough listening. But for the most part, I did a lot more listening than usual – and I learned a lot.

Here are a few helpful tips I’ve come across:

Develop the desire to listen. You must accept the fact that listening to others is your strongest weapon. Given the opportunity, the other person will tell you everything you need to know. If this doesn’t create desire, I don’t know what will.

Always let the other person do most of the talking. This is a simple matter of mathematics. I suggest a 70/30 rule. You listen 70% of the time and you talk 30% of the time.

Don’t interrupt. There is always the temptation to interrupt so you can tell the other person something you think is vitally important. It isn’t, so don’t. When you are about to speak, ask yourself if it is really necessary.

Learn active listening. It’s not enough that you’re listening to someone – you want to be sure that they know you’re listening. Active listening is the art of communicating to the other person that you’re hearing their every word.

Ask for clarification if needed. This will clear up any misunderstanding you have.

Get used to ‘listening’ for nonverbal messages – body language. The other person may be communicating with you via body language. You need to decode the message.

Ask a question…then shut up. This is a foolproof way to listen.

So instead of telling my children to “listen,” I’m going to actually try to teach them the importance of listening – so they have these skills as they grow up.

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