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Leadership is listening: becoming the best listener

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As a self-proclaimed extrovert, “listening” is not a word I can easily identify with. Throughout my life, I always wanted to immerse myself in discussions, introduce myself to strangers and embarrass my wife along the way. This thinking of a conversation seeker has benefited me in the form of deep conversations, meeting people around the world and creating lasting memories. I believe that being an extrovert is a blessing, but it also has many problems.

Anyone who likes to talk like me can easily fall into the usual trap if he can’t listen, understand, show empathy and build relationships. To sum up: I was a terrible listener.

Who are the real experts?

Many people around the world are also struggling with listening. In fact, I believe that in a world of social media, instant information, and instant messaging, we have developed a lack of patience that humanity has never seen.

We see this problem in the field of training. There are too many training professionals who think it’s all about them, not about their students. The industry requires fewer lecturers and more supportive listeners. Often training professionals believe that because they have been hired as an expert, they should do most of the interviewing. In fact, the opposite is true: real experts are not people who have all the answers; these are the people who facilitate the process of helping others find their own answers.

We develop self-motivation, not dependent motivation. When we listen, we allow our students to delve deeper into themselves to get answers that will really help them change their lives. When we give them lectures or answer all their questions instead of directing them to our own answers, we are actually fooling them with the most important part of the development process.

It’s time to train professionals to become less talkative and more focused on hearing. If we listen effectively, we can show our students their own answers and give them the opportunity to be motivated.

Become the best listener

If you’re not sure if you’re listening well or not, here are some questions you can ask yourself:

  • Do you remember the names of strangers when you meet them?
  • During the conversation, do you constantly think about what you should say, instead of listening carefully to what the other person is saying?
  • If you were asked to repeat what someone else said during the conversation, would you be able to?

If you are like me, you may have answered the opposite because you would like all three of these questions.

At first I thought extroverts were just behaving like that. In our culture filled with personal evaluations and individuals trying to better understand themselves, I bought into the lie that it’s okay because that’s how I was submissive. However, the fact that we are connected in some way does not make it right or useful.

To overcome my lack of listening skills, I started looking for other leaders I knew who were extroverts. What made them such good leaders and listeners? Here are seven key traits I discovered while looking at how they led and listened:

  • They allow the other person or party to speak at least 75% of the conversation.
  • They never interrupted, no matter how much they disagreed, made reasonable follow-up statements and didn’t even want to agree.
  • They kept eye contact throughout the conversation.
  • They asked questions that led the other person to a personally determined answer, instead of trying to come up with the right thing to say to the other person in a certain way.
  • They always talked out of place humility and meekness, even when corrected.
  • They asked clarifying questions when something was not understood to make sure both sides were on the same page.
  • They treated the other person as a person and not as a prospect or project.

In our society, loudness, proper sounding, and overpowering others are often admirable. However, world-changing leaders are the ones who apply these seven traits in every conversation they take part in.

The world needs leaders who seek to understand, listen carefully and humbly serve. Let us be such people in all areas of our lives, both personally and professionally. This will make the world a better place, and we extroverts can only remember some names once.

“Most people listen not with the intention of understanding; they listen with the intention of answering ”(Stephen R. Covey).

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