The Art & Science of Listening

“In a conversation, do you listen or wait to talk?” Think about your answer. Odds are (like for most of us) unfortunately it is the latter. Effective or Active Listening is incredibly powerful in both our professional and personal lives. It is a proven fact that humans can absorb more content listening than when speaking.

The Tribe at Yalo recently had a roundtable chat about being a good listener. For most of us, it is certainly a learned skill that requires tips, practice and conscious effort. Run the highlights!

Embrace the uncomfortable silence. Mia Wallace and Vincent Vega did and so can you. Our minds are racing, we want to say what we planned to say or immediately react to what someone said. Next time before you speak, wait 5-10-15 seconds. Odds are someone in the room will say something else and it just might be the information you are looking for. 

Take notes and playback. Copious and serious note taking forces you to listen to what someone is saying where you automatically translate it into your words. Remember, professional relationships are partnerships with mutual, shared outcomes. Playback to your audience what you heard in your language to make sure these desired outcomes are truly the same.

Politely probe. What, where, why, who, how. You know the drill. Many business conversations use very generic terms (benefits, value, and improvements). Use these terms as triggers to politely follow up on what is being said to gain better insight. This creates a natural back and forth in the conversation and often pleasantly surprises the person who is speaking to you.

Make eye contact. Another proven fact is people talk more slowly when they are making eye contact. You, as a listener, should do the same. It will naturally have the speaker slow down and allow you to focus on the information and process it more effectively.

Be prepared, not scripted. Conversations and meetings usually are goal or outcome oriented. That is why effective meetings always begin with an objectives/agenda confirmation. The trap is when you as a participant try to script the conversation. This goes against almost every effective listening tip previously listed. Plus, remember what Mike Tyson said. “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.”

So the next time you are in a meeting or at the family dinner table, work on being a better listener. At a minimum, you can keep the audience guessing.

“It’s better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than open it and remove all doubt.” – Mark Twain

Looking for more articles like this?

No need to keep refreshing this page. We’ll send article links directly to your inbox when you sign up for our bi-weekly emails.