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Timeless Principle #2 – Be A Good Listener

A few weeks ago I mentioned 12 simple (but not simplistic) principles that all managers should practice. Principle #1 was to look on the inside, not the outside when dealing with people. Principle #2 gives you some insight on how to do that.

Be a good listener.

Ok, we’ve all heard this one before:   God gave you two ears and only one mouth so use them in that priority.” But how can we really take steps to be good listeners?

In order to be a better communicator and to have those around us feel totally heard and understood, we have to practicing active listening. Active listening is more than hearing what people say and goes beyond just looking them in the eyes (although both practices are important). Active listening means practicing a deep level of discernment. It involves listening for subtleties below the surface; subtleties like needs and emotions.

Why are needs and emotions so important to listen for?

While some people seem to talk just to hear the sound of their own voice, most people communicate in order to get something. Needs and emotions are usually good indicators of what people want. Needs are the substances that fill voids. It could be a physical need such as food or water. It might be an emotional need such as an opportunity to vent or receive empathy. It can even be a spiritual need such as a yearning to connect to a higher power. Needs are different that wants (“I want a new Volvo S-80”) in that they indicate something deeper (i.e. “I want the Volvo S-80 to give me a feeling of reward for all the hard work I did in building my career”). If we listen for, and identify need, we can then offer suggestions, advice, or even give tangibles that really help the listener get satisfaction.

Listening for emotions first involves identifying emotions. Emotions are more than sadness and the tugging of your heart when viewing the ending of Old Yeller. Emotions can also include anger, rage, elation, and a whole range of other feelings. Sometimes we have to sort through emotions to hear the real message. Other times we might just hear what we need from the emotions themselves.

By practicing the skills of active listening, you’ll find people become drawn to you and begin asking for your opinions and advice. By being a good listener, you’ll even encourage your employees to find solutions to their own dilemmas because the answer might become apparent to them when they speak with you without interruption. It’s a key people skill and one that will benefit you both at work and in your personal relationships. It won’t be easy – plan on spending many hours practicing, but the results are well worth the effort.

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7 Comments/Trackbacks

One of the four Fish! Philosophy principles is "Be there." It means focusing on the person talking to you. This means that, when conducting a conversation or participating on a conference call, you don't check your e-mail or surf the net. You may call it "multi-tasking". I call it "rudeness." Someone worked hard (hopefully) to prepare that teleconference. Even if it's somewhat boring, you're going to miss information if you're trying to do something else.

Thanks Malcolm, how would that translate to an online blogging community? Would it be through comments and exchanges that show we are hearing and taking in, what others say or ask? Since so much communication, today is online, I am wondering how this works best in our busy lives? What do you think? Are we hearing one another?

That's a good question Ellen. Perhaps the best way is to acknowledge the question or statement in the posting and then answer to the best of your ability. Any comments should be thought out in terms of both visual impact and emotional impact. Certainly your final task would be to clarify with the reciever.

It's a big challenge today. Email was a start, now you even have to worry about text messages!

Is that answer helpful Ellen?

(and if it is, then maybe I was able to answer your question on this postin as well!)


I try to be an active listener, always looking for ways to make our entrepreneurs better at what they do.

Leaders, under God’s good hand, must never stop cultivating leadership qualities. In fact, regardless of how well a person masters any skill, the choice of whether to use that skill appropriately is a character issue more than a skill issue. I may, for instance, develop great listening skills because I know listening is important to effective leadership. But unless I address my impatience and arrogance, I won’t listen. In this case I have the qualifying skill, but I don’t use it because I don’t have the more important character qualification. I haven’t become others-centered.

What I am hearing you say here timerland is that we give credence to the fact that we listen - when in fact we rarely do really listen, because we lack other skills. I find that notion intriguing.

The only way to gain other skills is to seek OTHER's ideas about decisions we make. people rarely do! What can be done - for the words that speak of listening skills and our actions that go ahead - without hearing from those who are impacted most? Ideas?

We have the tendency to consider our own problems as being the most important and we no longer take the time to listen to the others' problems. This is the first reason for which couples separate or team working is not efficient.

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