Many offers online and offline claim they will change your life. However, what I am about to share won’t cost you any money but will bring untold wealth to you, if you consistently do it.
Will it take years to master this skill? No.
Will you have to buy loads of books and educational courses to learn how to do it? No.
In fact, you already have all the tools you need to do this one simple thing that can change both your personal and professional life.
What is it?
I call it “the art of listening.”
The Art of Listening
I call it an art because it is a skill acquired by experience, perhaps some study (if you want to deepen your skill), and observation.
My college major was Communication Art. Out of all the classes I took on communication, not one was devoted to listening. In fact, I didn’t find such a class until a few years later, my church offered one for ministry training.
And what a superb course it was! I learned how to “mirror” people in conversation, how to do “active listening,” and more. But as much as I enjoyed the course, really, all it amounted to was shutting one’s mouth and letting the other person talk.
Listening Is a Gift
In our world full of social media, where everyone is talking at the same time, all day long, the act of listening is perhaps more of a gift than ever.
Everyone wants to be heard. However, few are.
This is why it is such a gift when someone stops what they’re doing and gives you their full attention as they converse with you.
Years ago, I worked as an assistant within a church. We would have well-known ministers visit us on occasion. One time, we had a popular preacher and author visit us. My boss, a former full-bird Air Force Colonel, was as excited as a small boy on Christmas morning.
He chattered with this man at great length while I hustled in the background, doing what I normally did in that job. When there was a break in the conversation, I started to ask the man a question but my boss immediately interrupted with something else he had to say.
I stopped and waited, not sure if what I had said was even heard. But after my boss finished, there was a pause and the man said to me gently, “Go ahead, I’m listening.”
The feeling I experienced at that moment was incredible. I felt as though I was seen. I was respected. And my voice counted. I was stunned by how much a few simple words meant to me but quickly realized it wasn’t the words he said, it was the courtesy he showed.
This type of kindness that is expressed in listening is unfortunately, rarely seen today.
Listening Smooths Rough Paths
If you’re involved in customer service, you likely already know the power of listening. When a customer is upset, the reaction of most people is to find out what the problem is and then fix it.
However, what is actually more powerful is to begin the exchange by listening. If the person is upset, listen to them as they rant and rave. Gently agree with them that of course you understand why they’re so upset. You’d be, too… and so on.
After allowing them to vent, then you have more information to help redeem the situation. Quite often, after a person has been given the opportunity to vent, they’re much more reasonable and more open to working with the company’s representative.
Listening Opens Doors
Back in 1869, a poor Dutch boy was scraping by, only receiving six years of education. In order to support his family, he left school when he was thirteen to work for the Western Union Telegraph Company. However, he didn’t give up on the dream of receiving an education.
He employed a novel approach. The boy, Edward Bok, saved his money, often going without lunch so he could eventually purchase an encyclopedia of American biography. He then did a very smart thing.
He read about the lives of famous people and then wrote to them, asking them to share with him additional information about their childhood. He was an excellent listener.
In time, he had built a relationship with such famous people as General James A. Garfield, General Ulysses S. Grant, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Mrs. Abraham Lincoln, Louise May Alcott, and many more.
Not only did he correspond with them, but he visited them while on vacation. He was a welcome guest in their homes as they shared their wisdom and counseled him. These encounters shaped young Bok, giving him enormous confidence and vision for his own future, not to mention hard-earned knowledge from some of the most successful people in the country.
Years later, Edward Bok rose to become the editor of The Ladies Home Journal, where he remained as such for 30 years, and became a Pulitzer-prize winning author. He also is credited with coining the term, “living room.” Not bad for a poor boy who didn’t have immediate access to education.
Listening is something that can open many doors for you. It can smooth a path, it can mend broken fences in relationships, it can build rapport and establish loyalty. So the next time you’re in a conversation with someone, slip into stealth mode and listen. Ask questions that focus on the other person.
I guarantee you that you’ll be remembered and respected more than you’d ever imagine.