The Importance of Listening to be More Influential

Experts say the ability to express yourself verbally often reaps influence. According to the Journal of Research in Personality, there is evidence that being an effective listener is also as important.

Effective Listening

Benefits of Effective Listening

  • Prevents miscommunication
  • Confirms understanding of the message
  • Reduces frustration for the person ‘transmitting’ the message
  • Gives access to others’ beliefs, knowledge, objectives, and attitudes
  • Allows people to disclose information, more readily, to those who listen well

You aren’t the only one who can benefit

The listener can tailor their persuasion attempt better when those being ‘spoken to’ feel ‘listened to’, building liking and trust.

Good listening skills have been shown to positively correlate to the effectiveness of leaders. Below are Trait Theory’s Big Five dimensions of personality which can be related to effective leaders:

  1. Conscientiousness – thoughtfulness and goal directed behaviour
  2. Extraversion – positive energy and emotions (excitability, sociability, and assertiveness)
  3. Openness – creative, curious, insightful and informed
  4. Agreeability – trust, kindness, and affection
  5. Neuroticism – anger, anxiety or depression (this is a negative dimension and would not contribute positively to effective leadership)

How can you tell if you’re a good listener?

How well we speak and present is easy to measure through praise or criticism. However, it’s difficult to measure how well we listen!

Clients regularly advise us that their more productive teams are those who exhibit good listening and communication. We often observe in our simulation workshops that teams who listen effectively to each other often outperform those who don’t. We’ve found that some of these teams genuinely do not ‘hear’ what their stakeholders say, often because they have already made up their mind what they assume the stakeholder is going to say. Building positive awareness of this ‘preset mindset’ is the first step to correcting it.

How to become a better listener

In his book ‘The Art of People,’ Dave Kerpen asserts that there are three steps you can take to improve your listening skills:

  1. Focussing – we are often distracted and fail to pay attention to what is actually being said
  2. Mirroring – by reflecting back what the person has said to you (or what you think you heard) the person feels valued, you confirm your understanding and remember what you heard
  3. Validating – giving the person ‘permission’ to feel their emotion, e.g. “It’s OK to be angry – I would feel the same way”

Another way to become a better listener is to address how you ‘filter’ information. Everyone naturally filters information based on experience, prejudices, and culture, which can alter the way you process messages. This realisation is the first steps to recognising, modifying and removing some of these blocks to listening.

Why not practise these and ask someone for feedback on how your listening skills are improving?

A risk-free way to practise

Our Project Leadership Simulation and Managing Stakeholders Simulation (where teams play the same management scenario, at the same time, in the same conditions) are great opportunities to practise your listening skills when you are:

  • Managing stakeholders
  • Managing programmes
  • Leading projects
  • Leading change

We find that teams playing the simulations filter what they are hearing and taking in. There can be up to five teams at a time playing, and they often hear different messages, although the actual message given is the same. At the end of the simulations, the groups debrief and share what they heard. This gives you an opportunity to see first-hand how others digest and filter information differently.

Related Training

Simulation Workshop: Project Leadership™

Simulation Workshop: Managing Stakeholders™

Influence Skills: Getting Results without Direct Authority

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