In order to communicate well, it’s critically important to be able to listen well too. A great listener has enormous advantages in the world. Listening is not a natural ability – it’s a skill that can be nurtured.
You can listen to the audio blog or read the transcription below.
So why does it matter? Listening creates some wonderful outcomes.
First of all, understanding. Listening is the doorway to understanding. I always say conscious listening always creates understanding, and that, I would suggest, is something we really need in the world today. A world of polarised politics and people shouting at each other, and even people brutalising or killing each other because they simply disagree.
Democracy relies on civilised disagreement. It’s important to listen to the opposition and be able to tolerate them because you understand where they come from. What good is free speech if no-one is listening?
Second, listening also promotes intimacy. Truly to somebody truly requires all of your attention. If that’s not something you do very often, it’s worth trying! Try it tonight when you go home to your loved ones. Actually give them your full, undivided attention. You may find that they’re quite surprised, because we do an awful lot of partial listening. We do something else that’s ‘more important’ while they’re talking. Listening is a great way of increasing intimacy levels. It’s an act of love.
3) Inspiration and persuasion
Also, listening persuades people. It inspires people. If people around you are important to your team or to a project that you’re trying to achieve, listening to them is the best way of enrolling them and keeping them involved.
Listening will help them feel considered. They’ll feel part of what’s going on.
4) Health and wellbeing
Listening can improve your your health. As I said in another recent blog, sound affects our wellbeing very profoundly. Noise has a very bad effect on our wellbeing and health. If you’re listening to the world around you, then you can take control of the sound around you. You can be conscious of it and put yourself in healthy environments.
And finally, listening is how we learn. If you don’t listen well, you’re not going to learn much. People who are inveterate uses of the phrase “I know” are less liable to learn things than people who have some humility and are always curious. Try to avoid being an “I know” person. If you know everything, what can you learn? Nothing.
Listening is how we learn from others, and there’s always that degree of humility, which helps us to take on board new ideas, try them on and grow a little bit every single day. There’s a phrase I love: “ferocious curiosity”.
Remember, listening is a skill. You can practise it and you can improve it – there are plenty of exercises in my new book. So try listening with ferocious curiosity.