Updated: Sep 17, 2021
"Most of the successful people I've known are the ones who do more listening than talking."
- Bernard Baruch
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines hearing as the "process, function, or power of perceiving sound; specifically: the special sense by which noises and tones are received as stimuli." Listening is defined as "to pay attention to sound; to hear something with thoughtful attention, and to give consideration."
There are two types of listening, active and passive; active is engaged in the conversation while passive checks out. When actively listening, we are fully involved with who is speaking, internalizing what is being said to understand the speaker's intent. To be active in the conversation requires work, some empathy, and interest. We intend to connect with the speaker and be involved in the exchange.
When passively listening, we disconnect from the speaker, neither adding nor receiving from the exchange. I'm sure you've recognized that glazed-over look in someone's eyes when speaking to them; you might be three apart while they were a thousand miles away!
Hearing and listening aren't the same
"If you make listening and observation your occupation, you will gain much more than you can by talk."
- Robert Baden-Powell
It is a known fact that you can hear what the other person is saying and still not understand them. Listening requires empathy, which enables you to understand and share the feelings of the person who's speaking to you. Anyone can communicate by speaking; it takes listening to connect with people.
Listening connects you with the other person on a much deeper level. It is both affirming and validating to reply with understanding. Stephen R. Covey writes, "Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply."
Listening connects the leader to the team and the team to the vision. People will trust a leader who can listen and learn from them. Learning where people are coming from helps us understand why they do what they do, allowing leaders to ask the right questions to know what they need to do.
Life Coach and Leadership Consultant Birgit Ohlin observes, "Listening is an active process. There is a balance found in active listening, between being passive versus being overly-active. Have you ever "listened" to someone, only to realize you were planning your response the entire time? Or been in a situation where the conversation deteriorates to a sequence of statements and stories? Often, our own agenda gets in the way of being a good listener." (1)
Better Connections Begin With Active Listening
"There is as much wisdom in listening as there is in speaking -- and that goes for all relationships, not just romantic ones."
- Daniel Dae Kim
Becoming a better listener allows you to ask better questions, become a better leader, connect better with your family, friends, employees, customers/clients. Listening intently to questions enables you to provide better answers.
I'm not alone in the belief that effective communication begins with active listening. By practicing being "all in" with every conversation, you'll develop and enjoy better long-term relationships, remember more about those you converse with, and remember more detailed information like birthdays, careers, gifts, talents, and more.
John C Maxwell says, "Connecting is the key; I am convinced more than ever that good communication and leadership are all about connecting. If you can connect with others at every level—one-on-one, in groups, and with an audience—your relationships are stronger, your sense of community improves, your ability to create teamwork increases, your influence increases, and your productivity skyrockets." (2)
"Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand."
- Karl A. Menniger
(1) Active Listening: The Art of Empathetic Conversation https://bit.ly/3kev9Rd
(2) Everyone Communicates, Few Connect Kindle Locations 148-152 Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.