“Listen, or your tongue will make you deaf.” – Native American Proverb
It is common knowledge that it’s a good characteristic of being a leader is to listen. But how often do we actually practice this? Research states that we only hear less than 50% of what is said. Can you imagine that? So say you are speaking for 10 minutes in a meeting, ask yourself, “How much was actually heard??”.
Listening more and talking less is a powerful and effective way to let your team feel appreciated and understood, but it has other benefits as well. For one, it will allow you to gain more information before providing input. It can keep you from saying something you might regret later. Inevitably, it will make people really listen when you do speak, which can make your leadership that much more impactful.
If you have been guilty of being more of a talker in your leadership style, here are a few tips for how to transition into a leader who talks less and listens more.
Really pay attention to what the speaker is saying. We are often waiting for our turn to speak. Don’t. Focus on the speaker to the point where you are not simply hearing their story but hearing their heart in relation to the conflict/challenge/concern they are sharing. Pro tip: Maintaining eye contact helps you stay focused and remember to table any preconceived notions or ideas in favor of curiosity.
Avoid speaking just to fill empty space. Do you really have something to say, or are you merely talking from a sense of anxiety because there’s a lull in the discussion? Try to resist that impulse long enough to allow the speaker to resume or acknowledge that they are done. You may get some additional information about the topic that you would have missed otherwise.
When do you speak- be succinct. It may seem obvious, but quite often we speak from the tops of our heads without carefully weighing our words. Even a momentary pause to consider how you want to phrase the point you are making will help you come across more succinctly and impactfully. While you are doing that, take a minute to pause and consider your tone, as well.
I will end with a statement that was given to me during a training I had facilitated. One of the learners handed me a note card and on it was written: “The most powerful statement is your dignified silence.”