Guest Blog: Listen Up! The Importance of Listening
I often stress the importance of listening for people, rather than simply listening to them. The simple act of listening is a key skill for networkers and an oft-overlooked one by people who believe that the person who speaks loudest and most often will be noticed.
In this guest blog, Katheryn Rivas looks more closely at the importance of listening.
John Marshall, a former U.S Supreme Court Justice, once said, "To listen well is as powerful a means of communication and influence as to talk well." Here, Marshall hit upon a truth that is all too often ignored, especially in the realm of networking.
Many of us assume that an adroit networker is one who has developed a natural self-confidence and has adopted an urbane, easy demeanor in conversation. Conversationalists are the "alphas", the leaders of the pack, so to speak, who are supposedly just magically born with the gift of the gab. Of course, nothing could be farther from the truth.
Great networkers are not born great networkers. Granted, developing speaking skills is essential, but so many who hope to develop said skills often forget the most important aspect that all good networking have in common, something that Marshall so cogently pointed out--listening. Really listening.
Networking, at its most basic level, is a form of communication, just as talking on the phone is or even reading a book. The difference, however, arises in terms of the end goal. When reading a book, for example, the author and the reader communicate in that the author hopes to purvey a message to the reader, who “listens” by reading and considering the author's ideas.
In networking, the end goal is establishing a professional connection that lasts beyond the initial meeting. Connections, however, are two-way streets. The person with whom you are attempting to network may desire a long-term connection with you, even if such a connection is different from the one you are seeking. Considering networking operates as a give and take, the more you give—that is, the more you listen—the more you will receive in return.
Listening is also important because not only does it signal to your networking partner that you are patient and curious, it also indicates that you are willing to respond to ideas that are not yours. If you can do that, then it means that you can generally excel in any professional environment.
The art of listening is difficult. Very difficult. This is simply because we are often engrossed in our own thoughts, or we are anticipating what we are going to say when someone else is speaking. The first step in listening successfully is quieting your own thoughts and checking your own impulsive desire to get a word in. Listening also involves letting go of pre-established prejudices. This is the only way to truly empathize with another human being, even if you may disagree with her.
The importance of listening cannot be emphasized strongly enough, and it is not only limited to advantages accrued by the successful networker. If you can listen, then it follows that you can successfully navigate any other venture, whether it is personal or professional. If we can learn to truly listen to others, then we will be remarkably surprised by how easy any difficult, people-centered activity can become. Just give it a try. Trust me.