“When I get ready to reason with a man, I spend one third of my time thinking about myself and what I am going to say–and two thirds thinking about him and what he is going to say.” Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln is known as one of the greatest communicators of all time. His words spoken during the Lincoln-Douglas debates, “The Emancipation Proclamation,” and “The Gettysburg Address,” are some of the most famous words in history.
However, when you study Abraham Lincoln, his greatest skills in communication were not speaking or writing…..it was listening.
Like all great communicators, and leaders Abraham Lincoln had vision, charisma, consensus building, and trustworthiness. All of these attributes require great listening.
Listening is hard
I often conduct an exercise during my communication workshop where I have each participant find a partner and I give both partners a different scenario. Without any defined instructions I ask both parties to read their specific scenario and then to engage in a conversation with their partner who has a different scenario.
Both scenarios place the participant into a difficult situation where they have to negotiate a deal with their partner. What they don’t know is that their partner also has a challenging scenario to deal with. They also don’t know that they both need each other to fix their problem.
The partner who asks the most questions and listens the most ALWAYS negotiates the better deal. By asking questions and listening, they put themselves in a better position. The person that speaks the most shows vulnerability and appears desperate.
Although this is an imaginary scenario, the results are true in every aspect of communication, especially if you are in sales. As someone once told me,
Do you lack focus?
This is a question I struggle with everyday. I am a high energy person that likes to move fast. Unless I am highly intentional, I can easily lose focus and not give my full attention to someone who is speaking to me.
Like many people, I listen faster than I can speak. In fact, most of us speak at a rate of 180 words/minute, but listen at 300–500 words/minute. It’s easy to fill this space thinking about what we want to say next, our to-do lists, or what we want to eat for dinner.
Listening requires effort
Being a good listener is not easy for most people. You have to be intentional. You have to be focused. You have to direct your full energy to the person who is speaking to you.
Like any skill, listening can be improved. If you struggle to focus and connect with those speaking to you, you can start improving today. You simply have to give listening your full attention.
To become a great leader and great communicator, you must continually develop your listening skills. Listening gives you the ability to develop stronger relationships, gather valuable information, and increases your understanding of yourself and others.
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