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In a world saturated with information, nonstop noise, smartphones and endless workplace productivity tools, the art of listening is truly on the decline. How can we stop and pay attention to one thing at a time when a waterfall of “noise” is cascading into our minds every second? Our phones, notifications, emails and texts in the present moment all seem far more urgent than the person standing in front of us.
Here’s a startling statistic for you: After the average person listens to someone speak, he or she remembers only half of what the other person said.
Listening is critical to not only understanding other people, but also to having fulfilling lives at work and in our personal lives.
Below are 3 ways that deep, intentional listening will transform your life.
1. Change your dynamics with other people
When we interact with other people, no matter how much we care about them or how close we are, it’s so easy to “listen” while we think about what we’re going to say next. Some might say this is even our default state when we’re around others. It takes conscious, present moment awareness to fully focus on what the other person is saying to us without thinking of ourselves.
You’ll find that the deeper you listen to others, the more non-verbal cues you pick up from what they’re not saying. Everything from body language to specific words they’re using can tell you what their attitude is, how they’re feeling, and inform more thoughtful responses on your end. All of this ends up deepening our relationship with those that matter to us.
Think about times you’ve been around great listeners in your own life. They have a special charm that’s hard to put your finger on. They make you feel heard and understood. Often, they have the most thoughtful responses and questions that make you think.
Why is that? It’s not complicated — they’re actually listening to you!
Related: 6 Strategies for Being a Better, Active Listener
2. Improve your ability to solve tough challenges
In the workplace, we all have to listen to others to some degree. Our livelihoods depend on it. We’re all familiar with the boring, seemingly endless meeting with no obvious purpose. It can dissuade us from wanting to listen and turn us off from listening to certain people altogether if we deem them unworthy of our attention.
Yet, it’s more critical than ever to listen to our colleagues when they’re communicating with us. Tools like Slack, Teams and email mean that most workplace communication takes place in the written form, with us reading it. That means fewer opportunities to practice empathetic listening, despite it being the “highest form of listening” according to famed author Stephen Covey.
The toughest challenges in the workplace still require serious coordination and teamwork. We need to practice listening to others to fill knowledge gaps, strategize and execute on challenges and obstacles that’ll move the needle for your business.
Related: Are You Missing On Social Listening? Then Here’s Something For You
3. Become more connected to the world
Listening is so magical because it connects us to others, and through others to the bigger world around us. We can get so good at listening that we can vividly imagine ourselves in the scenarios that other people are describing to us. True listening gives us a richer, deeper life.
If you’re running a business or even working as an employee, listening is likely the most critical factor in your success or failure. Often most people don’t realize it. The most complex problems we face require cooperation with others to solve, which requires listening.
So how do you get started on practicing better listening daily?
It all starts with moment-to-moment attention to what someone else is saying. Turn down distractions, quiet the chatter in your mind and set your intention on really understanding the other person. It shifts the spotlight from the relentless self-listening we do to putting someone else first.
Over time and with repetition, listening deeply to others will come more naturally. You’ll begin to see personal and professional relationships transform as you earn the title of a “great listener.” People will be attracted to you because they know you’ll take the time to truly understand them.
That’s what listening is all about.
Related: 12 Women-Run Podcasts You Should Be Listening To