Businesswoman with finger in ears.

I’ve stated before that all of us are in the persuasion profession. Every one of us, in order to be successful, must at some point sell our ideas. This is why I believe that all of us need to sharpen our communication skills and be able to use language effectively to tell a compelling story and inspire action.

The one skill however that I believe will take you further than any other however isn’t learning to speak well. I believe that the most important skill to master above all is effective listening.

I say effective listening because that’s not what most people do. Most people listen for space in the conversation so that they can add more of their opinions. Mastering the skills of truly effective listening has three parts. Check them out and see how many you’ve conquered

Basic Listening:

This is where it all starts. We’re in the game and in the conversation. we hear what’s being said and we’re able to process enough of the conversation to keep it moving and our partner talking.

Active Listening:

The next level of listening has us observing more than just the words. At the active stage, we pick up on the tone that’s being used and the speaker’s body language. We begin to use more than one of our senses to color the context of the conversation.  We hear the words, we hear the tone and we see the gestures and expressions that tie it together.

Engaged Listening:

To be a truly effective listener, we must be engaged. True engagement takes both of the previous levels and adds something that’s hard to teach. The most effective listener hears not only what’s being said, but what the speaker doesn’t say as well. There’s an old saying that says that there are three sides to every story, my side, your side and the truth. Often times, speakers will purposefully not include things we they speak so that they can hide their truest feelings. Fully engaged and effective listeners hear this too. Hear isn’t really the right word, so much as feel it. I’ve been in the position myself when my price was right, my terms were good, but I still missed the sale. There was another reason, but I didn’t hear it because it wasn’t said.

Becoming and Engaged Level Listener requires tremendous discipline. It requires us to become comfortable with silence in the conversation and adept at asking questions that keep the speaker comfortable and talking. Most of all, it requires practice.

Mastering the art of listening is the most valuable skill we can develop. While most of us give a great deal of thought to how we present our ideas, we give comparatively little thought to how we hear others. Start really listening, hearing and observing today, though, and everyone you speak with will notice.

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