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Mis à jour le 12/05/2022

Listen With Intent

Understand the Importance of Active Listening 

I can hear you saying already: “Seriously? He’s going to go on about the importance of listening?"

Well, yeah. Because, as the famous philosopher René Descartes said, “common sense is the best thing in the world to share,” and this course about is a lot about common sense. Plus, most of us think we are much better listeners than we actually are. :lol:

Now that I have your attention (;)), let's talk about why listening is so important. Consider this example:

In his book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell discusses an interesting study carried out in the U.S. by researcher Wendy Levinson.

Dr. Levinson investigated the differentiating factor between a group of doctors who had never been sued and a group who had been sued at least twice.

Her findings? This difference was not linked to performance, but rather the amount of time spent with patients. The doctors who had never been sued simply spent three minutes more with their patients (18.3 minutes on average vs. 15 minutes for the doctors who had been sued).

They said they spend these three extra minutes actively listening to their patients, encouraging them to express their feelings.

That is just one of many possible examples. Still, it shows how essential listening is to a relationship.

When you listen actively, you learn more about the other person. It allows you to ask more relevant questions, and helps you put yourself in the other person's shoes. Remember our discussion about practicing empathy? Active listening helps you do that!

Practice Active Listening

I call listening a skill because it is something you can all work on: it’s not an innate talent; you can improve these skills. If you don’t practice often enough, you get worse and end up rusty, like when you try to dust off your high school Spanish when on vacation “dos cervezas...erm...si...”

So you’ve said we can practice active listening, but how?

1. Be sincere: if you’re not interested in the person speaking or the topic at hand, and you don’t genuinely want to know more about the person opposite you, then you will never be able to listen to them properly.

2. Be attentive: when you’re with the person, you can’t be thinking of something else at the same time.

3. Remain silent: interrupting the other person when talking means redirecting the conversation according to your preferences. As a result, you learn nothing about the other person and what motivates them as you’re taking up too much of the foreground.

Why wait for 3-4 seconds?

Three to four seconds is long enough to allow the other person to have a short break before resuming, but it isn’t too long that they feel obliged to continue speaking. 

Identify What Prevents You From Listening to Someone Properly

Now you know the theory behind how to listen. But can anyone always be ready to listen to other people 100% properly? No, of course not. It’s essential to be aware of the obstacles and how to overcome them.

Here are several obstacles:

  • Your mood/energy levels:

I’m tired and prefer to hear my own voice (it helps put me to sleep) rather than another person’s voice.

  • Your desire to speak:

I want to show people what I know and receive recognition for my knowledge on the topic. I’m afraid people will think that I don’t know anything if I don’t speak (teacher’s pet syndrome: “I know, I know!”).

  • Fear of wasting your time:

I’m afraid that the other person will keep talking for hours (I’m very busy).

  • Your day-plans:

I start to think about the proposal that I need to send to a client later in the day, and then I drift off thinking about after-work drinks with friends.

  • Your perception of the other person:

I’m struggling to like the person and believe what they’re telling me (I don’t have a good feeling about them).

What about you? What prevents you from listening to people and your clients properly?

Over to You Now!

Think back to a recent interaction with a business contact. Were you able to listen to them properly? Why? Write your answers in your workbook.

Over the next few days, practice keeping silent in conversations with your loved ones and even with work colleagues: try being silent for 1, 2, or 3 seconds, and even try a 10-second gap if you’re up for it! Practicing this technique is the only way to perfect it.

Let's Recap!

  • Active listening is the first thing you should work on if you want to be more service-minded.

  • Properly listening to another person means listening to them sincerely, attentively, and, in most cases, silently.

  • Identify the obstacles to active listening to be able to overcome them.

Now that we’ve discussed active listening, we can talk about something that is highly associated with it: asking questions! In the next chapter, we’ll look at the role questions play in conversations. 

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