Lend your whole ear

Hearing isn't the same as listening

Successful people are successful because they know how to get what they want. And the way you go about asking people for the things you want can have a dramatic effect on your ability to get those things. The best way to start is by being a brilliant conversationalist, and the easiest way to do that is by becoming a better listener.

Listening is an art. Listening is an activity. Listening is being sincerely interested in hearing what the other person has to say. When you listen to people, you’re letting them know you value them and their thoughts and ideas. You’ll go further in life by being a good listener than by being a good talker. Once people realize you are willing to take the time to listen to them, true communication begins to take place.

There are a variety of things you can do to become a better listener:

  • Pay attention. Concentrate on what is being said. This means putting aside whatever you’re doing for a few minutes-including your own thoughts, worries and preoccupations-and listening to the other person.
  • Be courteous. Listen respectfully to everything that is being said, even if you don’t agree. Don’t interrupt or cut the person off.
  • Nod your head. This indicates that you hear and understand-but not necessarily agree with-what is being said. A sincere “I see” or “Um-hmm” will also accomplish this.
  • Repeat the statement. For clarification, repeat the things you hear. This lets the speaker know you’re trying to understand them. You could say, “So what you’re saying is…” or “If I heard you correctly….”
  • Don’t be judgmental. Allow the other person to state their case in full. Wait until you’ve heard the whole idea and have had time to think about its merits before you pass judgment. Try to set aside your own prejudices, frames of reference and desires so you can experience-as much as is possible-what is happening inside the other person’s world.
  • Ask follow-up questions. This shows that you’ve been attentive. When you change subjects immediately after a person makes a statement, you’re indicating that you aren’t interested in what he or she has just said.

Learn to listen with your entire body. Sit up straight, lean forward slightly and, as the other person is speaking, look at the person’s face. Listen for the words between the words. Listen for feeling. Listen for meaning. Give the person your undivided attention as you weigh each word, each phrase, each sentence.

Based on Success Is a Journey: 7 Steps to Achieving Success in the Business of Life by Jeffrey J. Mayer (McGraw-Hill, $17.95). Copyright (c) 1999. Reprinted by arrangement with McGraw-Hill.

ACROSS THE WEB