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To Influence First You Must Listen

You can make more friends in two weeks by becoming a good listener than you can in two years trying to get other people interested in you.” Dale Carnegie.

How many of us would like to have a positive influence on the lives of everyone we encounter? I know I would. Our children, spouse, friends, coworkers, your boss, the list goes on. One of the easiest ways to influence someone is to be a good listener. When you listen it says you care about them. Think about people that you have talked with, people that care about your life at home AND at work. They are almost always people that have listened to your thoughts and ideas. John Maxwell has said “In order to add value to others, you must first value others.” When someone knows you care you can more easily establish trust with them. When there is trust, there is an avenue by which you can influence them.

Barriers to good listening:

  • Overvaluing Talking
    • There is a reason we have two ears and one mouth. That is the ration to which we should listen.
  • Lacking Focus
    • Learn to focus your energy on the person talking instead of looking around, answering emails, checking your phone, etc.
  • Stereotyping
    • We often hear what we think someone is going to say instead of what they are actually saying.
  • Carrying Personal Emotional Baggage
    • Your past experiences slant the way you see the world. If you are preoccupied with specific topics, they make you defensive, or you frequently project your view onto others, you may need to work through some of your issues before you can become an effective listener.
  • Being Preoccupied With Self
    • This is probably the most challenging obstacle to good listening. If you aren’t interested in others you cannot influence others.

How to develop good listening skills:

  • Look at the speaker
    • This tells them that you are paying attention to only them.
  • Don’t interrupt
    • Nothing deflates someone speaking like getting interrupted. It’s saying “I don’t care what you have to say; my thoughts are more important; or I need to impress everyone around us.”
  • Focus on Understanding
    • When you focus on the speaker to understand what they mean rather than the words they say, you are showing them how much you care about their point of view.
  • Determine the need at the moment
    • Sometimes people need to vent and other times they need help. Figure out what their need is and try to assist only in that way.
  • Suspend your Judgement
    • Don’t jump to conclusions and interrupt before the person is done speaking. You can’t be a good listener and cut them off at the same time.
  • Check your emotions
    • If you are more emotional that the conversation warrants, check your emotions. Don’t make others the recipient of your reactions.
  • Sum up and ask for clarity
    • When it seems appropriate you may want to clarify what they said or sum up a few items, not so you can talk, just to ensure your understanding of the situation.
  • Always make listening a priority
    • It doesn’t matter how old your children are, how long you’ve been in a relationship or how high you go in a company, listening will always remain important. In fact the further you get from the front lines the more you need to trust what you hear. If you show people you truly care and are non-threatening, you’ll be amazed how much they will tell you.

Your family, your team, your company can only go to the highest level if you, as the leader, listen effectively. “Leaders who don’t listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say.” -Andy Stanley

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