How Better Listening Can Improve Your Conversations and Your Leadership

For a leader, listening is perhaps the most important skill of all. As a leader, we must learn to listen while navigating along with the person speaking toward a common destination – mutual understanding.

Whether your talents are in sales, systems engineering, administration, technical support, or leadership, listening to connect with others – requires a new and powerful form of deep listening.

When having a conversation you can improve your precision listening skills by asking questions that will help you gain more insight from the speaker. By intentionally navigating through a conversation, we can move from making assumptions to gaining clarification of meaning and intent – and it happens by asking the right questions.

Judith Glaser, CEO of the Benchmarking Institution and Chair of the Creating WE Institute, has developed examples of these navigational-listening questions that will guide your next important conversation.

You can download these questions along with other practical helps for your next conversation here.

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A recent release of our SUMS free book summaries also spoke directly to this topic.

Conversational Intelligence, also by Judith Glaser, advances the theory that the key to success in life and business is to become a master at “Conversational Intelligence.” It’s not about how smart you are, but how open you are to learn new and effective powerful conversational rituals that prime the brain for trust, partnership, and mutual success.

Download a copy of this free summary here.

SUMS_ConversationalIntelligence

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Judith Glaser

Judith Glaser

Judith E. Glaser is the CEO of Benchmark Communications and the chairman of The Creating WE Institute. She is the author of six books, including Creating WE (Platinum Press, 2005) and Conversational Intelligence (BiblioMotion, 2013), and a consultant to Fortune 500 companies.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
Yea! You fixed it!
 
— Mr. Troy Reynolds
 
I just discovered this today and am looking forward to exploring the content on here. It looks like it could be very helpful. Just an FYI - in your paragraph on not putting out B+ material you have a typo. A little ironic. :-) The third sentence begins with "You time" not "Your time."
 
— Troy Reynolds
 
I'm lost, to say the least! As a new pastor, taking over a newly started church I have read just about everything there is to learn what I can do to grow the church. I truly beleive that those attending our church are friendly and sincere. So that can't be the issue. I have read all the comments to this article and I feel that most churches will never have a fair chance! We are a VERY small church, so we don't have a children's church (yet). So if a family comes and gets upset that we don't have a children's church for them to put their children into, we lose! We do provide things for their kids to do during the service and even have an option for their kids to be in a different room, if they don't want their kids to sit with them. We are also such a small church that we don't have a worship team/band/etc. Our worship music comes from music videos. The congregation we do have likes it this way, but of course we would love to have a worhsip team. So, if someone comes to our church and is upset that we don't have live music, we lose! The point I am trying to make is that when people come in with preconceived ideas of what a church should be like, they will never find a church home, unless they find a church who's goal is to entertain! Every Sunday our message comes from the Bible, so that can't be a complaint for someone, so instead, people leave the church and never come back because they want more from a church: they don't want friendly people who are following the Word of God; they want a church that give them something (a babysitter for their kid, entertainment, free gifts, etc.) I'm sorry if sound cynical, I truly want everyone to hear the Good News and learn about Christ's love, but if they come in looking for something else, then the church will always lose!
 
— JAG
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Learning to Listen, Not Listening to Speak Next

What if active listening is really just the baseline level of acceptable listening rather than the ultimate destination point? What if, instead of us viewing active listening as something to achieve, we look at it as more of a basic expectation upon which we build and grow?

There are at least three levels of listening that can be layered on top of active listening.

1. Respecting

This might be closest to what’s typically referred to as active listening. We hear what’s being said, understand its intent, and respond accordingly. This is productive, respectful listening. This bears all the hallmarks of active listening. We’re engaged, there’s eye contact, we’re not interrupting, and so on.

2. Empathizing

Now don’t skip this one because you’ve heard this word tossed around all the time. It’s not nearly as simple as we make it out to be. “I know how you feel” isn’t empathy. “Walking a mile in someone’s shoes” isn’t empathy. It may often be more akin to the pretending we chatted about before. Resist the urge to speed past this. When my professor first explained what empathy actually is, it knocked me completely on my – how do the French say it? – derriere.

As he explained it, empathy involves “reflecting and experiencing other people’s feelings and states of being through a quality of presence that has the consequence of their seeing themselves with more clarity,” even without any words being spoken. Do you get how huge that is?

View the situation from the other’s point of view. What do they want, whether it’s been plainly stated or not? What are they feeling? Not what would I be feeling if I were them – what are they feeling?

We also strive to hear the intention behind the content with sincerity and respect. Empathizing enables us to respond by facilitating the other person’s intention (a response is not a defensive reaction). We do this by attempting to see the big picture and respond with the idea of maintaining a long-term relationship within which we can serve and care about the other.

3. Generative Listening

Generative listening is sophisticated listening; it is active, inventive listening that evokes the best qualities in others by creating the other’s brilliance. This is what Robert Greenleaf – essentially the father of the modern servant leadership movement – was referring to when he said that “people grow taller when you listen to them.

Generative listening is a creative act. You become a finely tuned receiver that picks up what currently is, and also what wants to be, communicated. Ideas and solutions that you hadn’t considered before may simply emerge, at least in part, because your stubbornness and ego are in check. By letting go of preconceptions and biases; you’re able to sit patiently in the “not knowing,” unthreatened by differences of opinion. This allows the act of listening to birth something truly original and worthwhile.

The notion of silence is another aspect of generative listening some refer to as generative silence. Some find silence awkward or oppressive, but a relaxed approach to dialogue will include the welcoming of some silence. It is often a devastating – but very important – question to ask ourselves: If I say what’s running through my head, will I really improve on the silence?

So, you see, when we begin to listen in these ways, our listening becomes so much more than simply “good communication.” It becomes a vehicle to serving the other. It evolves into a way we help others grow taller.

Read more from Matt here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Monge

Matt Monge

Matt is a cancer survivor who’s dead set on making the world a better place by helping organizations be better places to work. He’s currently Chief Culture Officer at Mazuma Credit Union, and also does speaking and consulting work to help other organizations with culture, development, recruiting, and leadership. He has been recognized as one of Credit Union Times’ “Trailblazers 40 Below,” and has spoken at national conferences for CUNA and NAFCU in addition to other events. He has written articles for Training magazine, the Credit Union Times, the Credit Union Executives Society, is a contributor for CU Insight, and an editor for CU Water Cooler. He is also a Training magazine Top 125 Award winner. Matt is earning his Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership from Gonzaga University.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
Yea! You fixed it!
 
— Mr. Troy Reynolds
 
I just discovered this today and am looking forward to exploring the content on here. It looks like it could be very helpful. Just an FYI - in your paragraph on not putting out B+ material you have a typo. A little ironic. :-) The third sentence begins with "You time" not "Your time."
 
— Troy Reynolds
 
I'm lost, to say the least! As a new pastor, taking over a newly started church I have read just about everything there is to learn what I can do to grow the church. I truly beleive that those attending our church are friendly and sincere. So that can't be the issue. I have read all the comments to this article and I feel that most churches will never have a fair chance! We are a VERY small church, so we don't have a children's church (yet). So if a family comes and gets upset that we don't have a children's church for them to put their children into, we lose! We do provide things for their kids to do during the service and even have an option for their kids to be in a different room, if they don't want their kids to sit with them. We are also such a small church that we don't have a worship team/band/etc. Our worship music comes from music videos. The congregation we do have likes it this way, but of course we would love to have a worhsip team. So, if someone comes to our church and is upset that we don't have live music, we lose! The point I am trying to make is that when people come in with preconceived ideas of what a church should be like, they will never find a church home, unless they find a church who's goal is to entertain! Every Sunday our message comes from the Bible, so that can't be a complaint for someone, so instead, people leave the church and never come back because they want more from a church: they don't want friendly people who are following the Word of God; they want a church that give them something (a babysitter for their kid, entertainment, free gifts, etc.) I'm sorry if sound cynical, I truly want everyone to hear the Good News and learn about Christ's love, but if they come in looking for something else, then the church will always lose!
 
— JAG
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.