When and where is it that we learn how to listen? Most people don’t even perhaps look at it as a skill set, so no matter what their listening behavior, their attitude is “what’s the problem?” So, first, let’s examine why listening skills are perhaps the most important interpersonal skill you can develop. First, it is foundational to every relationship you have with any person. Are relationships important to you? Are you married? Do you want a “10” and settling for a “5?” Do you have children? Do they listen to you? Are you working in a job with co-employees? Do you have a boss? Are you in sales? We can go on and on…listening skills are not just important but critical for any successful relationship as they determine the effectiveness of virtually any and every communication you have with another human being!

Secondly, when you reach a level of mastery around listening, rarely if ever will you have any person you interact with walk away without saying, “Wow, she (he) was really awesome. I am so glad to know her(him)!” Why is that true? Because once again, there are millions of people who have never interacted with a quality trained listener! You will stand out and shine! You also will be able to step into your power as a person of influence. You see, when you dedicate your energy and effort to being a great listener, the people you interact with will feel loved, honored, important, supported, and thus, want you as a friend (or more?) forever. They will also respect and honor you like no one else, and most will not even know exactly why since they did most of the talking!
How does this apply in your personal life? Do you want a phenomenal marriage? Listening skills are critical. Do you want your children to truly listen or “just hear” you? Think of the ways you will truly lead guide and direct their lives with true listening. Not only will your children really hear you, but they will now have the foundation to become empowered listeners themselves. This is truly setting them up for success.

So, how is it we actually learn this very critical skill that so many consider equal in nature to learn how to walk? We learn from those in our immediate environment which from ages 3-10 is almost always our parents. From the day we are born, the people that we spend the most time with (assuming we have no nanny) are our parents. Perhaps some parents abdicate the major interactions of their youngsters to their elder siblings. However, the overwhelming training/influence still occurs from the parents (coming through the elder siblings who were “programmed” by mom and dad to start with).

So, what if mom and dad were poor listeners? Do you have a chance? You may think that going to college can correct that…but the reality is that the only people who get any real education in listening at the collegiate level are generally those who pursue a degree in counseling. Once again, very few and far between. Do you realize that most people do not even know whether they are good listeners? They just assume so in that a major percentage of our world never even considers investing in becoming a better listener. Just like they would never consider investing in enhancing how to walk and talk. The huge majority of people totally underestimate the incredible power of being a masterful listener.

Empathic or “BE WITH” listening is perhaps the most effective way to listen to others. What is that? It takes retraining from our “unlearned” approach (which was just mimicking our environment). You learn how to set aside what you are thinking and truly “be with” the other person. Listen with full intent to truly understand; in other words, come from “beginner’s mind.” This is a concept of having no preconceived notions, no opinions on right and wrong, just “blank slate” your mind as if this is the first time you hear about the topic at hand. So, now you get to exhibit intrigue and interest in finding out more, why the person feels that way, what events happened to shape that opinion, etc. You are in a position to learn from them, which is very honoring. They are equally honored because you are truly interested.

How do we usually listen? Most people listen to AGREE or DISAGREE. You see, when you come from AGREE or DISAGREE, you are “ALL IN on having to have to be right!” We are more intent upon showing off our intellect and our beliefs than we are in building incredible relationships with people who can help us grow. You see, you are always incapable of learning when you are entrenched in being right. So, instead of pursuing the logic behind why the person believes/thinks differently than you, you just shut down in a state of self-righteousness. Another way of looking at this more effective type of listening is thinking of it as coming from a Beginner’s Mind.
Here are a few questions that just might cause you to step back and think:

  1. Did the person have the same upbringing you experienced?
  2. Did the person have the same level of schooling, job experiences, relationships as you have had?
  3. Did the person have the exact same religious beliefs? Political beliefs? Other influences in their lives?

Can we now truly acknowledge how we can have reached different conclusions in life? And since none of us will ever live an entire other person’s life, so never have the same experiences, emotions, family, schooling, is it not reasonable to want to expand our understanding of life by just being a great listener? I do! I love tapping into other’s conclusions they have reached about life and then listening to the events/influences in their lives that caused them to draw those conclusions as I surely will never be able to live 10-20-100 other peoples’ lives on this earth. What incredible education each person brings to me when I come from Beginner’s Mind!