Leadership

When people listen, creative waters flow / The Art of Listening

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Now, there are brilliant people who cannot listen much. They have no ingoing wires on their apparatus. They are entertaining, but exhausting, too.

I think it is because these lecturers, these brilliant performers, by not giving us a chance to talk, do not let this little creative fountain inside us that begins to spring and cast up new thoughts and unexpected laughter and wisdom. That is why, when someone has listened to you, you go home rested and lighthearted.

Now, this little creative fountain is in us all. It is the spirit, or the intelligence, or the imagination — whatever you want to call it. If you are very tired, strained, have no solitude, run too many errands, talk to too many people, drink too many cocktails, this little fountain is muddied over and covered with a lot of debris. The result is you stop living from the center, the creative fountain, and you live from the periphery, from externals. That is, you go along on mere willpower without imagination.

It is when people really listen to us, with quiet, fascinated attention, that the little fountain begins to work again, to accelerate in the most surprising way.

To sharpen your listening skills, you need patience and practice. Here are some suggestions that have helped others become better listeners:

1. RESIST THE TEMPTATION TO MONOPOLIZE CONVERSATION. If you like to dominate a situation or feel you know everything there is to know about a subject, you’re probably a poor listener. Remain open to new ideas instead of impatiently waiting for a chance to butt in with what you think is the final word on the subject. Before you speak, make sure that the speaker has had a chance to make his point.Many people think aloud and tend to grope toward their meaning. Their initial statements may be only a vague approximation of what they mean.

2. AVOID JUDGING THE SPEAKER TOO SOON. Good listeners try not to become preoccupied with a speaker’s mannerisms or delivery.

3. DON’T FAKE ATTENTION. When we decide that what a speaker has to say is boring or useless, we frequently pretend to listen. Attentive listeners remain alert and maintain eye contact. Simple gestures — nodding, raising the eyebrows, or leaning forward — all can convey interest.

4. LISTEN FOR IDEAS, AS WELL AS FACTS. When we listen, we tend to get bogged down trying to retain the facts and we miss the ideas behind them.

Effective listening develops empathy, which is the capacity for a deep understanding of another’s experience. And isn’t that what it takes for a relationship to thrive? It’s as simple as paying attention.