Why Good Leaders Are Great Listeners

How often do you truly listen? Despite what you might think, it’s probably not that often.

In this decade, we are so used to being force-fed bite-size chunks of information, without putting in much effort. Yet, our bodies are hard-wired to listen three times faster than anyone can even speak! So we have more than the capabilities, but it’s easier to not even bother. But not listening properly carries heavy consequences; while you’re absorbing just enough information to be able to mumble a reply and then change the topic, you come across as inattentive and a bit rude.

So if you want to become more likable and influential in both home and work life, why not try to truly listen?

Pay more attention

This is a difficult one to start with. Essentially, if someone is talking to you, regardless of who they are, put your phone down. You might think that you can digest everything at once because we’re all becoming so used to multi-tasking. But this type of multi-tasking is not healthy. Scrolling through Instagram, with the TV on in the background, and trying to listen to, say, your partner’s story is just like sitting at the end of multiple conveyor belts and being fed fragments of information. You are not really concentrating, or using your brain, you are just being fed.

So to counter this passiveness, try to focus your entire attention upon the human that is attempting to interact with you… and truly listen. You might not notice at first, but the speaker will feel valued and appreciated, and in turn, they will develop more respect for you.

Do NOT interrupt

This point speaks for itself really. But when you actually think about it, how annoying is it when someone cuts you off before you finish the story/point you’re trying to make? Really annoying is the answer, and you are left feeling like your ideas and opinions don’t matter. So why do we interrupt? Well, it’s usually because when we are ‘listening’, we are actually trying to find a way to relate to the particular topic and think of an even better anecdote to follow up with.

But how about we stop thinking about ourselves, and focus on what is currently being said? Only when that person is comfortably done with their turn should you follow up, but you should make a concerted effort to genuinely listen and absorb what this person is saying first. Plus, if you allow someone to have their say, they’ll be more likely to then give you a longer turn at expressing yourself. If you want to be heard, just like everyone does, try listening to others too.

Keep your body language in check

Hopefully, your phone is out of sight by now, but to show even more engagement, make sure your body language is also in check. Even if you’re just listening to the same old story from your parents about the time the postman was late, sit up straight, face them and throw some eye contact their way. But not too much eye contact. If you take this advice, you’ll see your various relationships improve, as you both feel respected, appreciated, and most importantly, heard.

Show acknowledgment

Particularly in a working environment, you should practice repeating back the main points of what a colleague has said. Even if it’s just a drinks order, or perhaps an intricate task, getting into the routine of regurgitating the details will show that you were fully listening. Not to mention, this is also an effective memory technique!

In other situations, such as a heart-to-heart chat, provide acknowledgment with sympathetic or empathetic reactions (“Oh no, that’s terrible”). Often, people just want to speak and be heard, so give them the time of day, and you will be respected for your time and patience.

Help others

You know those times when you say something hilarious or really insightful, but no one actually hears you? Often, you’ll then feel too embarrassed or under pressure to repeat what you said. But what if someone, even just one person in a group, picks up on your point and acknowledges it? Be that person. Even if it’s a ‘boring’ comment or a bad dad joke, show that you’ve heard them, or encourage the group to return to what they were trying to say, once the conversation dies down i.e. “Oh yeah, what were you going to say, Charlie?” If you are the person that listens and helps others out, this will be recognized and your reputation will reflect this.

By Lizzi Hart

Lizzi Hart is a Linguistics graduate from the University of Sussex and a Marketing Executive at the Graduate Recruitment Bureau. She has had work published through the Guardian, the Independent, Metro, The Huffington Post and Elite Daily.