People won’t listen until they’ve been heard. — John C. Maxwell

Recently, a coaching client, whom we’ll call Rachael, was asking how to share some 360 feedback with her boss, whom we’ll call Allyson.

“The thing is, Allyson is a great leader. She inspires the team. Is focused. It’s just that she tends to do most of the talking in meetings. And because she’s an SVP, people don’t feel comfortable speaking up and challenging her. Which is ironic, because she’s very approachable. How can I get her to speak less and listen more?”

Wow, could I relate to this one. I used to think I would gain more influence by sharing my experience and stories.

Fortunately, I’ve learned that listening is the key to influence.

Why listening is important

“She likes the sound of her own voice.”

“He dominates the conversation.”

You’ve probably heard these statements before. We’ve all worked with someone like this. Hey, maybe this describes you.

When we’re dominating the conversation, or taking up most of the space in a conversation, we’re actually losing influence. Listening is the most important communication skill.

Here are five reasons why listening is important:

  1. It shows empathy and respect for the communicator
  2. It makes them feel valued, seen, and understood
  3. It validates their thoughts, feelings, and experiences
  4. It builds a deeper connection
  5. You gain context, which acts as a filter

This last one is a superpower when you’re a leader, advisor, or coach. I have several decades of experience leading and building diverse, high-performance, effective organizations. As you can imagine, that gives me a ton of stories, tools, and experiences to draw on when I’m coaching a client.

But how do I know which stories, tools, and experiences are the right ones? You guessed it. By listening first.

When we listen first, we gain context. Context provides the necessary filter to determine which question we’ll ask next, story we’ll share, or play/technique we offer.

Comparing the two types of listening

Imagine two scenarios.

Scenario one

You’re in a conversation with someone who is hanging on every word. They’re deeply engaged. Making eye contact. Nodding their head. Showing interest and excitement. Selectively asking questions during pauses in your story.

Scenario two

You’re in a conversation with someone who constantly interrupts you, injecting their own experiences into your story. It seems like they’re trying to find every opportunity they can to speak. They’re trying to relate to you with their experiences. Unfortunately, you’re left feeling dismissed, unheard, and frustrated.

In the first scenario, the other person is listening to learn and understand. In the second, the person is listening waiting to speak.

Try taking a breath. Actively listen to the other person. Don’t make it about you.

The harsh reality

In today’s world, we’re constantly distracted. There’s a never ending list of things fighting for our attention. Our calendars look like a game of Tetris. We’re bombarded by Slack notifications.

I can’t tell you the number of people I see on a daily basis, driving with their phones on their steering wheels, scrolling through TikTok videos and instagram reels, while their driving 70mph down the highway.

We’ve become addicted to badge notifications, likes, and views. We’re drowning in comments.

So, in a world where we’ve become focused on “me, me, me,” take some time to actively listen to someone else. Really listen to them without waiting to speak.

Who knows, maybe you’ll learn something new.

Go further, faster

If you found this edition useful, consider forwarding it to a friend or colleague.

Want to go further, faster? Get unstuck or out of your own way? Consider our proven executive leadership coaching program. We’ll help you develop your own personalized leadership playbook to increase your executive presence, improve executive communication, and maximize your impact.

Apply for our 1:1 coaching program.

As always, I’m just an email or phone call away.


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