The Art of Listening to Influence Effectively

Authentic Influence is the Art of communicating authentically – being willing to articulate your needs and wants, as well as being genuinely curious about the other person’s needs and wants.  Being their ally – helping them to meet their needs – can powerfully influence them to help you get your needs met too.

You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.                                           ~Dale Carnegie

Expressing yourself effectively is only half of communicating to influence.  Mastering the Art of Listening is one of the special qualities of a great communicator.

Listening is a critical part of communication, even though it may seem like a passive activity.  Like speaking, listening also provides us with the opportunity to connect with others. 

How to Listen

How often have you had the experience of talking to someone and knowing that while they heard you, they weren’t really listening to you?

And how often do you find yourself thinking about what you are going to say next, instead of focusing on what the other person is saying?

This is ‘passive’ listening – when we hear what someone else is saying, but we’re not actively engaged in the communication process with them.  We may be distracted, disinterested, or thinking about what we are going to say next.

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.  ~Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

Active Listening Means Really Trying to Understand

I'm Listening SMOn the other hand, you’ve probably also been in conversations before where the other person seems to be very engaged, attentive and participative.  They look at you in the eye, make affirming comments to indicate they are listening; they nod and smile, and ask questions.

We know when someone is paying attention and truly hearing us.

This is ‘active’ listening – listening in order to understand the other person and the meaning of their message, being fully engaged in the communication process.

Active listening is the biggest communication challenge, especially in our fast-paced, hurry-up world.   It’s not enough to simply hear what the other person is saying.  You must seek to understand the meaning behind their words.

How?  By noticing the words, voice and body language of the person speaking. By paying close attention to HOW they are saying something you are more likely to understand what it is they are REALLY communicating.

Quick Tips to be a better ‘active’ listener:

  • When the other person is talking, don’t interrupt. Wait for an appropriate break in the conversation before speaking. In fact, the less you speak the more you will accomplish.
  • Wait for them. Let them pause.  They may not be finished and are just gathering their thoughts. Everyone has a different way of speaking and their own unique thought processes. They may be searching for the right way to express themselves. Give them time to say what they want to say.
  • Give them 100% of your attention. Watch for non-verbal cues. Let them know you are interested in what they are saying.
  • Make solid eye contact.  Show them that at that moment there is nothing more important than what they are saying. You body language will tell them if that is true or not.
  • Show that you are interested and engaged.  Nodding, smiling, making short affirming comments, and asking questions are all great ways to show them you are listening!

 Summary:

  1. Be an “active” listener – a critical part of being a powerful and influential communicator.
  1. To be an effective listener you must: let the other person talk, wait for them to finish their thoughts, give them 100% of your attention, make affirming comments, ask questions, and make solid eye contact.  Listen to what they say, and what they really mean!

Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force…When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.

~Karl Menninger