I was not a great listener most of my life. Actually, I was a very poor listener. Although I could come up with a number of reasons, the bottom line was that I didn’t care about what other people thought as much as I did about what I thought. And I thought they should be more interested in what I thought too. So even though I’d wait until they stopped talking to speak, all I was waiting for was an opening to share my great wisdom. Know anyone like that?
A few years ago, a confluence of several events caused me to realize how my self-centered ways were keeping me from developing deeper relationships. I found that people don’t really care how much you know until they know how much you care. Not only does listening show that you care, it gives you information to care about.
In the spirit of the “Brand You” movement that so many branding gurus have been espousing over the last couple of years, I started refining who I wanted to become in terms of the public perception of me. I also realized that the branding I wanted to take place had less to do with how much money I spent to create a perception than it did with who I was becoming as a person. I wanted my ‘brand’ to be someone who listens well, someone who genuinely cares. Not surprising, maybe, but we all have to ‘do’ before we ‘become’.
Have I become a great listener? I don’t think so. But, I have become better. I’m learning to ask better questions as I try to clarify, to understand the heart within a statement.
As more of our conversations take the form of electronic conveyance, I see the same need to express interest in others’ thoughts. If the posts about social networking etiquette are any indication, folks are still annoyed by those who dominate the discussion with cries of “Look at me!!!”
In Seth Godin’s book Tribes, he writes “What most people want in a leader is something that’s very difficult to find: we want someone who listens.”
A great overview of the proper social graces when using Twitter can be found in this post by Jenny Cromie. Seems to me that they’re equally applicable in any conversational setting.
How are you leading? How are you listening? Do you feel that you’re being heard? What do you think?