Can You Hear Me Now?

By Tom Caso Monday, October 25, 2010

Whether it be in the marketplace, in the home or at work, everyone loves to be listened to and taken seriously. Ironically, active listening brings attention to itself because it focuses all its energy on the one talking.   Sounds like a bit of a contradiction, but true listening “speaks” concern, respect and a sincere desire to understand the other person’s problem or point of view.

OK, we all sort of know this and most will admit that we can improve on our listening skills.  But, do we know how to develop and practice active listening?   Habitual skills only come from conscious and repetitive practice over the course of time – we say 21 to 28 days.  Good habits take persistence to develop while bad habits subtly invade our behaviors like weeds in a garden.   So too with listening, without a conscious effort, we think we hear or know what’s on the other person’s mind without truly taking the time and energy to really hear and feel the emotion expressed.

It’s been said of FDR, that his listening abilities were paramount to his political success.  He had this uncanny sense of reading and listening to others and connecting with them emotionally.  He accomplished this on both an individual level as well as on a national stage.  People felt they were listened to and that their opinions were valued.  Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes stated that the President had a second-class intellect but a first-class temperament.  We can argue his assessment, but one fact seems indisputable:  FDR was very persuasive.

Dr. Carl Rogers, one of the most influential behavioral psychologists of the 20th Century, determined that true active listening is the highest form of persuasion.   Think about that for a moment.  If this is true, then most of us go about our lives depriving ourselves of this valuable tool.  We think and act as if only talking can persuade others to our point of view.

Perhaps if we talk a little faster, a little louder, a little more forcefully we will get our point across and win the day.  For sure, we need to express ourselves in clear and appropriate ways, but how much more effective could we be if we practice active listening?

Dr. Rogers had three principles of effective listening for therapists:

1. Congruence -- genuineness, honesty with the client.
2.  Empathy -- the ability to feel what the client feels.
3.  Respect -- acceptance, unconditional positive regard towards the client.

These principles nicely apply to a sales and service application. Let’s make a commitment to listen more actively, more compassionately, more effectively. Good things can only result. CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?

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