Bess de Boer
The Underestimated Power of Listening
Updated: Apr 19, 2021
Can there EVER be communication without someone listening to the one speaking?
Communication REQUIRES listening.
And yet, listening is often absent from the equation of communication. Instead of really listening, we become absorbed in preparing our response while the other is speaking; we do so especially in difficult conversations.
In moments of great stress, or deep conflict, we forget the power of truly listening to understand the other. Instead, we equate listening with agreeing to the positions of our opponent, and shut down.
GREAT NEGOTIATORS KNOW the power that listening can wield. They know to listen FAR MORE than they talk. The best of them know that listening is key, especially when the aim is to powerfully communicate, persuade, or gain ground with your opponent.
Here are three reasons why:
1. LISTENING HELPS US UNDERSTAND THE OTHER SIDE. Without this critical understanding, powerful response or effective defence becomes impossible.
2. IT FACILITATES CONNECTION WTIH THE PERSON ON THE OTHER END OF THE DISPUTE. It builds trust. It shows that what the person on the other side is feeling matters.
3. IT MAKES THE PERSON ON THE OTHER SIDE WANT TO LISTEN TO US.
In fact, listening is the simplest concession we can make on the road to resolution. It costs us nothing. And yet, it can bring us profound benefits. It’s the key to cracking the gates to agreement open.
So how do we make use of this key ingredient on the road to resolving conflict?
Genuine listening is not easy. Listening well is an art. It needs to be practiced over and over again, before it can be mastered. Our tendency is to listen for our turn to speak. Few of us listen to understand what ‘s being said, especially in the heat of conflict. Most of us hear the words being spoken by the other, while mentally scrambling to list our points of disagreement. We busy ourselves feverishly constructing our response. We don't allow their words to land... to be absorbed, and understood.
Our focus is on ourselves, not on the other.
In genuine listening the attention turns outward to the other person. Our effort is focused on understanding them. We listen from their point of view, and not our own.
When we are truly listening, we leave our own feelings and perspective out of the equation; we listen not just for what’s being said but for what is left unspoken. We listen not just to the words, but to the silence between them. We listen to hear the other’s emotions, their feelings, and their needs.
This is challenging, even for the most skilled in the art of listening - but, it's here, quietly nestled in this space, that we find the road to solutions between ourselves and our opponent. So the next time you find yourself in the midst of a difficult conversation and the urge rises to jump in and interrupt... or to simply shut down, take a deep breath. Get centred and listen. Listen with your whole being.
Make your listening a plush velvet seat for the other's words to sink into, so that they feel received, understood... empty enough to make space to hear you in return.