In writing people talk about reading between the lines. I think in talking “reading between the lines” is when we ask a question and silently wait and listen for a response. Silence is one of the most challenging tasks that a leader has to take on.
But great leadership requires shutting your mouth. In a previous post, I wrote about asking the AWE question and in another post, I wrote about a listening challenge. To get a little more background on this post, take some time to read the other two.
Silence Isn’t Deafening
Silence isn’t deafening, silence is defining. Your leadership is more defined by your ability to listen than by your ability to talk and always have the answer. Listen to the needs of those you lead, listen to the needs of customers, listen to the input of others, etc.
But not all silence and listening is the same.
One of the hardest tasks we have as humans is to get our minds to rest and be quiet as we listen to others speak. To not prepare an answer as the other person is speaking. Instead to attentively listen and reflect on what is being said.
In this post, I want to work with you to come up with some simple ways to quiet your mind so you can truly listen.
Silence Isn’t Just Shutting Up It’s Engaging
It’s true we do need to be quiet when we listen to other people but that doesn’t stop with our mouths. The next time you’re in a conversation with someone, I want to challenge you to observe your own thinking.
What are you thinking about while your friend is talking? Is your mind blank? Are you thinking about your response? After you do this, the simple ways I’ve listed below will become even more helpful and effective.
Three Simple Ways To Improve Your Listening
Here’s an obvious place to start (but really hard for me), just talk less. I shoot for 40% talk and 60% listening in everyday conversations and 20% talk to 80% listening with coaching conversations. If these percentages seem challenging, that’s okay but you (like me) probably need to work on talking less.
Start conversations with a question instead of a monologue. One of the easiest ways to improve your listening skills and become comfortable in silence is to ask questions. But don’t just ask a question for the sake of it. Also, you don’t have to be the one that starts the conversation, sets the direction of it, or ends it either.
I love the challenge of finding something we have in common or I am curious about and then diving into what they know about the subject with a bunch of curious questions. In other words, get curious about the person you are talking to.
I have a few other ideas, but I want to hear yours. How do you practically practice silence and being a great listener?
Listening As A Defining Characteristic Of Leadership
Earlier I mentioned that silence isn’t deafening it’s defining. I want to explain what I mean. When a leader listens his employees or followers are empowered. When a leader listens she can begin to empathize with those she is leading.
Silence and listening doesn’t necessarily equal weakness or not having an answer. Silence and listening can mean the leader is humble enough to know he may not have all the answers.
Do you know a leader that is defined by his ability to listen and empathize? Do you know a leader who is humble enough to admit she doesn’t have all the answers or may not have the right ones?
I don’t know about you, but I would want to follow a leader that allows listening to be a defining characteristic of their leadership.
Where Do You Rank?
Here’s a rough one. Think about how much time you spend listening vs. talking. Now think about how good you are at deploying the skills of silence, asking great questions, and being present. If you’re brave enough, take the time to rate yourself on a 1-10 scale of how good of a listener you are. It may be different depending on the situation so do this a couple times today.
I’d love to hear your comments below on being a better listener and how you would rate yourself. I’d give myself a 6-7 depending on the situation.
If you are interested in learning more about your communication style and improve your listening skills, click here to sign up for our Free Leadership Course and get a Bonus Leadership Assessment.