Improve Your Life Personal Growth By Mary Jaksch You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time ~ M. Scott Peck Are you a good listener? Maybe you are. But the odds are not good. Though we like to believe otherwise, most people, most of the time, are terrible listeners. It’s no mystery why. The real mystery is why we aren’t doing anything about it. Listening: Why don’t we do it? Firstly, listening is difficult. Research shows that multitasking is a fallacy, which means we have to choose between listening and doing every other thing our minds desire, including thinking of what to say next. Secondly, rather than striving to build the listening skill, we largely accept our societal and cultural disposition to ignore it. No one bothers to teach listening in school – just public speaking class. You never see listening as a required skill on a job description – only “communication skills,” which means writing, leading meetings and giving presentations. Listening has never made any list of “top five” leadership attributes. Sure, it’s been written about: A Forbes article last year introduced listening as a key leadership skill. The post received one comment. The kicker, of course, is that listening requires ego suppression. To listen is to give up the primacy of your own mind and relinquish control of a conversation. So, we’re not good at listening, but what’s the big deal anyway? Try these seven reasons on for size. Seven ways listening can change your life 1. To listen is to love. Want to show someone you care? Want to give someone the gifts of belonging, self-esteem and acceptance? Listening with your complete attention is perhaps the surest way. Listening temporarily involves a total acceptance of the other. Sensing this acceptance, the speaker will fell less and less vulnerable and more and more inclined to open up the inner recesses of his or her mind to the listener. As this happens, speaker and listener begin to appreciate each other more and more, and the duet dance of love is begun again. -M. Scott Peck. 2. To listen is to learn. When you listen, the probability of learning something approaches 100 percent; when you speak, the chances are zero. Who are you serving, really, when you speak? Not yourself, apparently. Wisdom is the reward for a lifetime of listening … when you’d have preferred to talk. ~D.J. Kaufman. 3. To listen is to earn friendship. Why is it that we strongly gravitate toward friends who listen? Listening is an act of intrinsic value that will be recognized and cement the bonds of friendship. A good listener is not only popular everywhere, but after a while he knows something. ~Wilson Mizner 4. To listen is to be liked. To feel belonging and acceptance are fundamental human needs that you can meet for others, just by listening. Whatever the context, humans seem to instinctively recognize and appreciate true listening. Listening, not imitation, may be the sincerest form of flattery. -Dr Joyce Brothers. 5. To listen is to create trust. Listening, as an act of ego suspension, clearly says “it’s about you, not me.” When you listen, you communicate to the other person that you’re committed to doing right by them. Listening is an attitude of the heart, a genuine desire to be with another, which both attracts and heals. ~J. Isham. 6. To listen is to persuade. If you listen to someone else’s needs or point of view, they are more likely to be open to what you have to say. You can also go one step further and choose your words so that they will be better received. A good listener tries to understand what the other person is saying. In the end he may disagree sharply, but because he disagrees, he wants to know exactly what it is he is disagreeing with. ~Kenneth A. Wells 7. To listen is to know your mind. To speak an unfiltered thought is a form of compulsion, a mindless capitulation to the primacy of your ego. To forcibly retain your thoughts is to learn how to observe and differentiate yourself from your mind. Listening is a form of self-mastery. The best time to hold your tongue is the time you feel you must say something or bust. ~Josh Billings Taken together, these benefits could revolutionize your career and relationships. Indeed, if forced to choose just one skill to develop, one might give great consideration to the skill of listening. Yet, as we’ve established, listening is hard. You may be unsure how to start. We’ll discuss some practical strategies in part two of this post. In the meanwhile, try this: talk less. Are you convinced of the power of listening? What impact has listening had in your life? About the author: Taylor Jacobson is a leadership and career coach, empowering people to discover and unleash their visions for change in the world. Explore his blog, 21 Switchbacks, and say hello on Facebook.