Listen Up! Five Steps to Radical Listening

jeff lionI think way too much while I’m listening. That apparently is one of many things that separates me and most of us from Bill Clinton, the master of giving people his undivided attention. The good news? Clinton taught himself to connect-by-listening when he realized it increased his power in conversations and helped him become more persuasive.

So how does talking and thinking less help you sell your ideas better? The two former creative directors who have created SWIM led a Radical Listening workshop at the Cannes Lions Festival “marathon of listening” to help us avoid the train wrecks that occur when we only half-listen. They vow we’ll be more successful in no time.

Here’s how to be a radical listener:

  • Actively Focus: Practice making silent eye contact with someone for a full minute. You will realize how much body language plays into good listening.
  • Watch Your Signals: Appearing open, patient and interested will actually enable the speaker to be clearer. Being a good audience actually helps the speaker articulate thoughts more effectively.
  • Practice Pausing: Avoid the trap of your mind wandering or passing judgment (“I know what’s coming next”) or hearing what you want to hear by creating thoughtful pauses. Never jump on people’s words.
  • Stop Selling: After sharing ideas, just listen to the response and avoid the instinct to verbally arm wrestle. Suggest sleeping on ideas and convening the next day.
  • Confirm You Heard Correctly: Always summarize what you heard. By playing back information, you ensure you did not misunderstand or miss anything.

Going from poor listening to good listening will help us do better work and have better relationships. Pretty radical.