“As you proceed through life and become more successful, don’t lose sight of your need to keep growing and improving yourself. And remember, a deaf ear is evidence of a closed mind.”
~ John Maxwell, Becoming A Person Of Influence
Definition of Listening:
Good listening means giving open-minded, genuinely interested attention to others, allowing yourself the time and space to fully absorb what they say. It seeks not just the surface meaning, but where the speaker is “coming from”—what purpose, interest, or need is motivating their speech. Good listening encourages others to feel heard and to speak more openly and honestly.
Scripture about Listening:
“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” ~ James 1:19 (NLT)
“Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish.” ~ Proverbs 18:13 (NLT)
"He who has ears to hear, let him hear!" ~ Matthew 11:15 (NLT)
“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
Out of the ten attributes that make up a person of influence, “Listening to Others” is one that I have the most experience with. Even when I was younger, I always valued people who took time to just listen. I learned a lot by watching my mom and dad and they way they listened to me growing up. I tried to emulate that as best as I could with my friends and family as opportunities came my way.
Those listening skills have served me extremely well as a Chaplain at Simmons. I can’t tell you how many times I will sit with someone during counseling, and honestly not saying much - maybe a handful of words. Phrases like, “Wow” and “Tell me more about…” and “Help me understand…a little better.” At first, it would surprise me when these same people would stand up to leave and say, “Nick, thank you so much for all your help!” I used to think…well, I’m not sure what all I really did except listen. It turns out, that listening is as valuable of a skill that you can develop if you desire to have a positive impact on the lives of others.
What are the benefits to becoming a good listener?
1. Listening Shows Respect
“Whenever you don’t pay attention to what others have to say, you send them the message that you don’t value them. But when you listen to others, you communicate that you respect them. Even more, you show them that you care.”
2. Listening Builds Relationships
“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
3. Listening Increases Knowledge
“A good listener is not only popular everywhere, but after a while he knows something.” – Wilson Mizner
4. Listening Generated Ideas
“People love to contribute, especially if you give people opportunities to share their thoughts, and you listen with an open mind, there will always be a flow of new ideas. And even if you hear ideas that won’t work, just listening to them can often spark other creative thoughts in you and others.”
5. Listening Builds Loyalty
“Everyone loves a good listener and is attracted to him or her. And if you consistently listen to others, valuing them and what they have to offer, they are likely to develop a strong loyalty to you, even when your authority with them is unofficial or informal.”
What are some common barriers to listening?
- Overvaluing Talking
- Lacking Focus
- Experiencing Mental Fatigue (or stress)
- Stereotyping (or judgmental thoughts)
- Carrying Personal Emotional Baggage
- Being Preoccupied with Self (or selfishness)
I think we can all relate to one or all of these from time to time in our relationships. The next time you are in a situation where you have an opportunity to listen to someone and you find yourself wanting avoid/run the other way – can you label one of these six as your reason why?
So we’ve discussed the benefits and the barriers that confront a person who desires to positively influence others by listening.
If you were to list the top ten aspects that create an incredible listener, it would be a person who…
- Listens with a head-heart connection.
- Listens with the intent of understanding.
- Listens for the message and the message behind the message.
- Listens for both content and feelings.
- Listens with their eyes – their hearing will be improved.
- Listens for others’ interest, not just their position.
- Listens for what they are saying and not saying.
- Listens with empathy and acceptance.
- Listens for the areas where they are afraid and hurt.
- Listens as they would like to be listened to.
How do I know if I am good listener? Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I usually look at the speaker while he or she is talking?
- Do I wait for the speaker to finish talking before I respond?
- Do I make understanding my goal?
- Am I usually sensitive to the speaker’s immediate need?
- Do I make it a practice to check my own emotions?
- Do I regularly suspend my judgement until I get the whole story?
- Am I in the practice of summing up what the speaker says at major intervals?
- Do I ask questions for clarity when needed?
- Do I communicate to others that listening is a priority?
Based on these nine questions, pick 2 or 3 of them that are maybe a weak area in your life in regards to listening. If you need help, I am sure a spouse or close friend will be happy, happy, happy to point you in the right direction. :) Make a commitment this week to making improvements in these areas.
My takeaways for “A Person of Influence…Listens to People”:
- Taking time to think about how I want to be listened to can be an incredible tool for me to better understand how I should be listening to others.
- Sometimes the greatest influence I can have on other people is listening with a non-judgmental presence and allowing him/her to be authentic and allow them to process some very raw emotions and thoughts to come out if they are willing.
- People do not care how much I know, until they know how much I care – and I can show them my genuine care and concern for them by listening well.