Active listening makes people feel valued and connected, it strengthens relationships via clarified assumptions and perspectives, and it reveals new ideas. Importantly, it is also fertile ground for learning on the part of the listener. I recently helped an executive better understand the value of being a good listener. High quality, truly curious and patient listening did not come naturally to this particular fast-paced executive.
My client insightfully noted that if he had a goal to guide him as to what he should listen for, then he’d be better equipped to practice his listening. So he committed to becoming a better listener by entering conversations with the explicit intention of listening to learn something he did not already know. In other words, he’d listen openly enough to be educated by colleagues and even persuaded by them to change his views. This intention has started to paid off.
We all can benefit from listening for something we don’t already know. This mindset keeps us from ignoring or dismissing everything we hear that does not align with our current beliefs. It also shows respect for others and reduces defensiveness. In contrast, when someone thinks you are completely closed to learning from them or being influenced by them, then they are not inclined to trust you very much: You put up your barriers, and they’ll do the same.