The Wisdom of Listening

Wisdom has two parts: 1) |Having a lot to say. 2) Not saying it.” 

It may be a cliche, but listening is one of the most vital skills for leaders today and one that so many of us need to rekindle.

I love the story (true or not) about the man who was anxious about going to a party and having to talk to people that he had never met before.

On way to the party, he came up with a radically different approach.

He decided that, instead of trying to talk to and impress anyone, he would spend the evening simply listening to them and reflecting back what they had just said. So during the party he listened carefully to everyone and responded with phrases like, “I understand what you’re saying” and “Let me see if I grasp what you mean.” He also avoided voicing his own opinions, even though at times it meant biting his tongue.

Everyone he talked to during the party seemed content to be listened to without interruption and commented on how much they enjoyed meeting him.

When it comes to leadership, some of the best leaders that I have encountered have been amongst the quietest in the room. They know their time is well spent hearing new perspectives, ideas and thoughts.

The wisest leaders know that hearing themselves talk is no way to build trust and goodwill.

If you want to be a better listener, here are four habits that you can cultivate:

  1. Avoid giving advice right away
  2. Ask questions and carefully listen to the answers
  3. Don’t say a word until you fully know what the person needs or wants
  4. Reflect back or summarise what you heard, showing that you fully understood what was said

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