Becoming a great listener is a very under-rated leadership topic. In the leadership training world, we talk a lot about how to communicate and influence others, but we don’t often put enough emphasis on how to be a good listener FOR others.
Making others feel heard can help build trust and engagement with others that you care about. Learning to truly listen will set you apart from being a just manager to being a great leader and coach.
What Does Becoming a Great Listener Really Mean?
Many of us are probably scared to admit to the fact that we love talking about ourselves and don’t know what it means to truly listen. I used to think that I’m naturally not a great listener and not sure if I could ever become one.
The truth is, the number one requirement to being a good listener is that you truly care about others and most of us do. We just don’t know how to show it through the way we listen. Below are some skills you can start practicing to show empathy through listening.
1. Remove you own judgment.
The first step is to have self-awareness of your own judgment against others. Focus on removing the judgment during the conversation, and being present and really curious in what the other person is saying.
2. Focus on acknowledging and validating someone else’s emotions.
Acknowledging someone means simply hearing what they are saying and repeating it back to them (e.g. “What you’re telling me is that…”).
Validating someone means to let someone know that you can see things from their perspective (e.g. “You have the right to feel X because…”).
Learning how to acknowledge and validate someone and simply practice saying these phrases during a conversation is a great skill to have. It not only makes you a better listener, but an empathetic one.
3. Get genuinely curious about someone else’s story by asking open-ended questions.
Open-ended questions are empowering because they allow the person to process their thoughts and emotions, elaborate their story, and come up with solutions to their own problems. Open-ended questions often start with “how,” “what,” “when,” “where,” “who,” “if,” “Tell me about,” “Why.”
The more open-ended questions you ask, the more you can uncover, and the more you can help others process their thoughts.
Becoming a Great Listener is a Crucial Leadership Skill to Have!
Learning to remove judgment, acknowledge and validate others, and ask empowering questions will help you become a great listener and show others you care. Once you hone these skills, you will become not only a great leader, but a great coach.
Try practicing the skills above in the next conversation you have with someone!